The Justice Initiative Seeks Release of Documents Revealing Scientific Advice Given to the UK Government on COVID-19
This week, the Open Society Justice Initiative filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with the UK Government seeking the disclosure of documents relating to the work of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) on COVID-19. SAGE is responsible for providing independent scientific and technical advice to support the government’s decision-making to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus in the UK. The FOI request covers all documents produced by SAGE provided to the UK government containing information relating to COVID-19 and all minutes of SAGE meetings since it was activated in relation to COVID-19.
This request echoes calls from prominent scientists and politicians from all parties for greater transparency and scrutiny of SAGE’s work to help to ensure the integrity, impartiality, and independence of the committee and its members. In making the request, the Justice Initiative argues that disclosure of the records is essential to “allow SAGE deliberations and advice to be properly scrutinised and, where appropriate, tested and challenged by other experts”, as well as to “allow the public to more fully understand the scientific basis for the Government’s decisions”.
“Transparency during this unprecedented health crisis is vital. Because the government has said that it is following the science, the public needs to know what scientific advice it has received and whether this is really the case,” said Justice Initiative Legal Officer Jana Sadler-Forster, who filed the request. “These documents are important to informing the UK’s ongoing response and their disclosure cannot wait until the end of the pandemic.”