Open science communication: the first year of the UK's Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies

Martin McKee*, Danny Altmann, Anthony Costello, Karl Friston, Zubaida Haque, Kamlesh Khunti, Susan Michie, Tolullah Oni, Christina Pagel, Deenan Pillay, Steve Reicher, Helen Salisbury, Gabriel Scally, Kit Yates, Linda Bauld, Laura Bear, John Drury, Melissa Parker, Ann Phoenix, Elizabeth StokoeRobert West

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the complex relationship between science and policy. Policymakers have had to make decisions at speed in conditions of uncertainty, implementing policies that have had profound consequences for people's lives. Yet this process has sometimes been characterised by fragmentation, opacity and a disconnect between evidence and policy. In the United Kingdom, concerns about the secrecy that initially surrounded this process led to the creation of Independent SAGE, an unofficial group of scientists from different disciplines that came together to ask policy-relevant questions, review the evolving evidence, and make evidence-based recommendations. The group took a public health approach with a population perspective, worked in a holistic transdisciplinary way, and were committed to public engagement. In this paper, we review the lessons learned during its first year. These include the importance of learning from local expertise, the value of learning from other countries, the role of civil society as a critical friend to government, finding appropriate relationships between science and policy, and recognising the necessity of viewing issues through an equity lens.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-244
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Policy
Issue number3
Early online date15 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Science policy
  • Public engagement
  • Science communication


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