As the evidence is mounting that UK ministers and governments around the world have been relying on faulty Covid-19 modelling, Steve Baker, a senior Conservative MP, has called on Boris Johnson to institutionalise ‘competitive expert advice’ and a new law on computer coding transparency.
Mr Baker’s call for a radical reform of the way the government receives and assesses scientific advice comes in response to the economic and political disaster Britain and other countries are facing as a result of draconian lockdown policies – advice and decisions that are being challenged by a growing number of scientists and public health modellers.
In recent weeks, scientific journals and the GWPF have suggested similar reforms. Hopefully, Steve Baker’s initiative will take these key lessons from the Covid-19 fiasco further, resulting in new legislation and changes to scientific government advice.
If we want to avoid a repetition of the current disaster, it should, as Mr Baker proposes, become mandatory “to establish competing teams so Prime Ministers and Cabinets can select the advice which does least harm and most good.”
In future, ministers should receive the full spectrum of competitive scientific advice, including from dissenting scientists, not least on highly contentious climate modelling and environmental doomsday predictions.
Benny Peiser, Global Warming Policy Forum
Steve Baker MP: Boris – take back control
[…] First, the Government needs competitive expert advice. It is obvious that if Oxford’s Professor Sunetra Gupta or Sweden’s Professor Johan Giesecke had determined the scientific advice of SAGE, measures to stop the virus would not have been so hard nor gone on so long.
In a year, it seems likely we will look back and ask, not why we were slow going into lockdown, but why we were so slow coming out. Why was so much predictable economic carnage fomented? Why did official policies allow so many people with urgent non-COVID health problems to die without care? How could a Government so focused on our NHS have allowed waiting lists to increase by millions?
We need to embrace the truth that experts fail too. Professor Roger Koppl has set out the perfectly reasonable explanations why experts get things wrong. We need to learn what Feynman taught, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” And then establish competing teams so Prime Ministers and Cabinets can select the advice which does least harm and most good.
Second, scandalous incompetence must be expunged from the implementation in software of scientific theories. Superb dissections of the junk code which implements Professor Neil Ferguson’s frequently-wrong model have been written. However brilliant and correct science may be, it is worse than useless – positively harmful to millions – if it is coded badly.
I was a professional airworthiness then software engineer once upon a time: anywhere else – be it the RAF or investment banking – requires seriously good code for seriously important things. Government and academic science must now pass that threshold too. This is a lesson we have learned the hardest way possible.
Government must insist in law on software engineering standards commensurate with the task of steering public policy imposed on millions of people by force of law. And no area of policy can be immune: both epidemiology and climate change must be supported by open, high quality software which engenders confidence not derision. Work must start immediately on defining those software standards.