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expert reaction to the alternative SAGE committee’s report on schools

The alternative, or ‘Independent SAGE’, group have released a report on COVID-19 and the reopening of schools.


Dr Thomas House, Reader in Mathematical Statistics, University of Manchester, said:

“The mathematical models used in the ‘Independent SAGE’ PDF report are not described in sufficient detail to allow for technical assessment of their validity or for reproduction of the results. It is in particular very unclear how the figure on Page 11 showing the contagion risk over time is derived – although it should be noted that the confidence regions on this plot imply that the committee regards it as beyond the realms of reasonable possibility that contagion risks will be at 5% or above from the start of June onwards, and will without any doubt continue to decline rapidly.

“This approach is in contrast to the mathematical models used by the SPI-M modelling sub-committee of SAGE, where full technical papers used are regularly released, citations to peer-reviewed literature are provided, and groups are increasingly providing full access to code via open, collaborative platforms such as GitHub. Because many modelling approaches are used by SPI-M, predictions are typically subject to much more uncertainty and operate on a shorter time-scale; for longer-term prediction divergent scenarios that are contingent on factors that are hard to predict are typically considered.

“Overall, the thoughtful contributions of the very many talented and eminent scientists on ‘Independent SAGE’ are to be welcomed, and it is vital to have a wide discussion about the policy of re-opening schools, which should include teachers and children as well as scientists and politicians. But the implicit criticisms raised of SAGE and its sub-committees are unfortunately adding to the social and media dynamic which is seeing the scientists involved in SAGE exposed to personal and scientific attacks on the basis of criticisms that are demonstrably false. Furthermore, it is unclear if any of the members of ‘Independent SAGE’ have material conflicts of interest in the matters discussed.”


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