Scientific Advice and Evidence in Emergencies

HC 498, Third Report of Session 2010-11 - Volume I: Report, Together with Formal Minutes, Oral and Written Evidence

House of Commons - Science and Technology Committee
TSO (The Stationery Office)

'Scientific Advice and Evidence in Emergencies (HC 498)' reports on how scientific advice and evidence is used in national emergencies when the Government and scientific advisory system are put under great pressure to deal with atypical situations in.

The Science and Technology Committee's inquiry focused on four case studies:

(i) the 2009-10 H1N1 influenza pandemic (swine flu);

(ii) the April 2010 volcanic ash disruption;

(iii) space weather; and

(iv) cyber attacks.

While science is used effectively to aid responses to emergencies, the detachment of the Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) from the National Risk Assessment (NRA) - the key process of risk evaluation carried out by the Cabinet Office - is a serious concern.

The Committee recommends that:

  • the NRA should not be signed off until the GCSA is satisfied that all risks requiring scientific input and judgements have been properly considered.

  • A new independent scientific advisory committee should be set up to advise the Cabinet on risk assessment and review the NRA. The Icelandic volcanic eruption in April 2010 is a stark example of the lack of scientific input in risk assessment: the risk of disruption to aviation caused by a natural disaster was dropped from the assessment process in 2009, despite warnings from earth scientists.

There are raised concerns over how risk was communicated to the public during the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic in the report, with sensationalised media reporting about the projected deaths from swine flu. The Scientific Advisory Groups in Emergencies, set up to advise government during emergencies, were found to work in an unnecessarily secretive way.

Extent 254 pages ISBN 9780215556561
Size A4 Price £23.00
Format Paperback Published 02 Mar 2011
Availability Colour copy: 3 - 5 days Availability help (opens in new window) Delivery Delivery options and charges
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