SAGE : Conflicts Of Interest

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  • #62257 Reply

    SAGE conflicts of interest

    A very well researched document, written by a Doctor, on the large number of conflicts of interest within SAGE.

    #62272 Reply

    So it is well known that companies that work say on heart disease will fund research in heart disease.

    Companies who have drugs that treat certain cancers will fund research in these cancers. Moreover experts within the field are the obvious choice for expert committee.

    And so on, it is not really surprising, is it? Do you expect companies that produce vaccines to stand aloof and boycott vaccine research funding so as not to have a conflict of interest? And if you do, do you apply this principle across the board to arms research and manufacture, agrochemicals, automobile manufacture and energy? The world would come to a standstill wouldn’t it? In fact I sort of agree that these things should not happen, but not by targeting one aspect of the neoliberal capitalist system, but by examining the whole model and its political and influence revolving door.

    OK let us take Ferguson’s predictions of 500000 deaths if nothing is done. We now have 50,000 deaths, 10% of predictions. Is Dr Harcombe seriously suggesting that this figure would have remained the same if no measures were taken? What evidence does she have? Also if the motive behind the lockdown was merely to promote a vaccine, then how many vaccine promoting conflicts were also competing with each other?

    That, I am afraid, is not a very useful blog to follow.

    • This reply was modified 7 months ago by modbot.
    #62278 Reply

    Zoë Harcombe

    ‘Fave TV series is deffo “24”’

    Zoe Harcombe’s into glorification of torture then. And there’s me thinking she was just another nutritionist making some money from her TV appearances…

    And she’s only a “doctor” in that she has a PhD in nutrition.

    #62297 Reply
    Tom Rawlinson

    Craig – you’ve made no comment on the information in the Harcome blog – but you couldn’t really say anything. We have to be vigilant for conflicts of interest and, quite obviously, our experts are not completely neutral and disinterested. But there’s no way round that problem and I see no evidence at the moment they’ve abused the trust we put in them.

    Harcome has provided us with some potentially useful research (at least, I assume its hers) but it is not science and it doesn’t really go very far. Primarily, she’s a presenter – probably a very good one. We just look at what she’s done and go “Hmmmm …”.

    #62299 Reply

    Just a bit of a JG round I formation on Dr Zoe Harcombe. Really just to orientate readers. Dr Harcombe may be a nutrionist of sorts but an expert on Covid 19 and infectious disease she is not.ë_Harcombe

    #62300 Reply

    Don’t know why background turned into JG??

    #62302 Reply

    Also an old piece by Ben Goldacre from 2011 about Zoe

    How to read a paper

    #62303 Reply

    And why is it that all those HIV denialists, antivaxxers, climate change denialists and now also cholesterol denialists jumping in the COVID-19 denialism? There must be something about denialism that is all pervasive.

    #62306 Reply

    Craig? Craig hasn’t commented.

    I can’t comment on SAGE since their deliberations are shrouded in secrecy. SAGE stands for Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, so the S should be replaced with O for occult since science is meant to be conducted publicly such that methods can be checked and results replicated, whereas occult means ‘hidden’.

    There probably are conflicts of interest – the government appointed the SAGE members, and governments, especially this one, are rife with conflicts of interest.

    But whatever, I can’t imagine that any group with scientists on it would actually advise a government to act as negligently, incompetently and inconsistently as this one has.

    But I’m obviously being overly optimistic; Harcombe does have a scientific qualification, yet argues against all measures to restrict SARS-CoV_2, and seems to believe, as Trump does did, that it’ll just spontaneously go away before it has infected a majority of the population. Remarkable to find a PhD with less scientific literacy than Trump.

    • This reply was modified 7 months ago by modbot.
    #62329 Reply

    Why do people get so hysterical about the expectation of transparency in scientific decision making?

    SAG-E should (like everyone in certain positions) be clear and open.
    Truth is they haven’t been and that’s a concern.

    They didn’t initially even reveal who was involved*. Once they did we see 7 mathematicians but not a single immunologists.
    Seems a strange set up.

    They don’t have a very good record do they.
    Here’s a very polite way of saying “liars”.

    ‘The use of data has not consistently been supported by transparent information being provided in a timely manner. As a result, there is potential to confuse the public and undermine confidence in the statistics.’

    OSR Statement regarding transparency of data related to COVID-19

    And who can forget this hysterical rubbish that Vallance tried to later claim wasn’t a forecast.

    “Saturday’s Downing Street press conference had scientists present graphs suggesting England could see 4,000 daily deaths early next month”

    SAGE models overestimation of deaths

    * Here’s those involved.

    You can find the minutes as well, but you might notice some bits missing and two names retracted.

    Does that not raise questions?

    • This reply was modified 7 months ago by modbot.
    #62330 Reply

    I too find the lack of epidemiologists on SAGE troubling. Cynically, I expect this itself to be a government conflict of interest; they don’t want to hear the message that epidemiologists will deliver.

    Epidemiological advice is obvious, which is why it has been consistent for generations: inhibit cross-infection, by localising and compartmentalising, restricting travel, reducing proximity between people especially indoors, and providing and enforcing quarantine.

    The government is caught in an ideological bind. People need money to live, but the government’s ideology is that money may only be obtained from employment, and that all production and services are best provided by massive, heavily centralised organisations. This ideology is precisely opposed to to the needs imposed by the pandemic.

    We cannot choose the attributes of the virus, but we can choose our ideology.

    #62336 Reply

    I think the big problem here is the misunderstanding that SAGE is independent and that its deliberations and decisions, laundered through a political lens, are purely scientific. I agree that the mathematical modelling emphasis of SAGE was wrong and I argued with Clark about this at the outset. The conventional way to deal with a pandemic is in an almost reflex manner because by the time you get extensive data it could be too late. This approach has been flawed from the outset. If in March the government had acted sooner and with a proper ‘lockdown’ then arguably we would have been in a better place. Nevertheless this does not negate the fact that there was sufficient there to know that this was a dangerous virus, it had caused mortality of over 1% overall, it had a high contagion rate, to cause considerable mortality and there was no background immunity. You cannot wait to establish all this to start acting on a pandemic.

    #62344 Reply

    One of Britain’s most influential lobbyists secretly served as an adviser to a health minister for six months — before (or while) sending sensitive information on lockdown policy to paying clients.

    George Pascoe-Watson is chairman of Portland Communications, a lobbying firm that represents pharmaceutical companies, weapons manufacturers and banks.

    The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) appointed Pascoe-Watson, 55, a former journalist, as an adviser during the pandemic’s first wave on April 9 without announcing the move.

    He participated in daily strategic discussions chaired by Lord Bethell, a hereditary peer and former lobbyist who serves as test and trace minister, for six months. Bethell, 53, was a surprise appointment in March having chaired Matt Hancock’s leadership campaign in 2019 and giving a £5,000 donation

    #62347 Reply


    You say

    “If in March the government had acted sooner and with a proper ‘lockdown’ then arguably we would have been in a better place.”

    Arguably not and there is a strong understanding of the deaths this kind of thing inevitably leads to.


    Unlike the hypothetical scenarios of doom promoted, but never followed up(look up the last 8 months or so and how little of the “Knock on fear” lasted more than a week or two).

    Sorry but everything you write there after appears to be wild media(plus gov/sag-e) led supposition and it’s a Corona viruse so it’s highly unlikely there is “no background immunity”.
    Humans would never have survived this long otherwise. Ask any immunologist*.

    Sure this link will get the usual unthinking rebuttals, but maybe worth a read.

    For a more entertaining read I’d go for this, if only because their last point says quite a lot about their beliefs in their own weird version of science.

    As for freedom of knowledge and open thinking.
    Anyone that goes along with the plans to completely cut off open debate, please don’t ever claim to believe in science(not directed at you SA) and please do explain the now 290 statutory instruments used since the implementation of the Corona virus act and what they mean for the people of this country(warning to middle class, they’ve already destroyed the working class. This is your turn. Open your eyes).

    There will be no descent from those scared of losing position and as Pastor Niemöller made clear, that path leads only one way.

    *Old but funny, if only for the obvious exasperation at the false narrative of the time. I’ve no doubt there are now things in it that could be contested, but take it as written at the time.

    There may be a bigger picture that needs addressing before that option is taken from us.

    • This reply was modified 7 months ago by modbot.
    #62350 Reply

    I will read and comment later. The real rot started when Johnson was unexpectedly elected with a landslide and the Labour Party unravelled under new leadership.
    The government has been incompetent hesitant and had no clear plans and even the application of the ‘lockdown’ was shambolic and faulty. The bad application of a method does not mean that the method in itself is bad.

    #62358 Reply

    I have promised to look at your links, and I have. I am afraid that none of them tell me anything new. The first link is by a young Journalist, Laura Dodsworth and is just an opinion piece, so I am afraid no new insights whatsoever. I give you an example:

    “I spoke to a coroner (who does not wish to be named) who confirmed that the UK quickly increased mortuary capacity. They think the lockdown and changes to death registrations were necessary when knowledge was scant and threatened by having to house and process 500,000 bodies. As it turned out, “the epidemic was essentially the sort of pressure we get over a normal winter. It was way less than what we had planned for.”

    So what this says is that this was similar to normal winter pressures that the NHS is subjected to and almost causes a standstill in the NHS in winter on a yearly basis. Except it happened in April and May, and as we know now we are also facing a new wave of pressure on the NHS, the usual winter pressure plus a Covid pressure. Can we not see that this potentially a triple whammy? Is this not something worth discussing and thinking about, or just sweep it under the carpet and say, oh yes we coped! Well done. But also is there no analysis whatsoever or concession that the lockdown, which I think was very poorly managed, did after all have an effect? But of course the whole tone here is to say that it didn’t so there you are, circular arguments leading nowhere.
    Then may be, just maybe, the author, instead of talking to a nameless coroner who only wishes to convey anecdotal data, would have spoken on the record to an ITU consultant?. Another theme that is very well developed by those who wish to deny the dangers of SARS-Cov2, is to concentrate on CFRs or IFRs. This is not the whole story. Between 5-10% of all ‘cases’ whatever way you count them, need hospital admissions. When you have an exponential rate of infections then you will soon saturate capacity for healthcare which is limited. The only way to reduce the number of cases in a highly contagious disease iS by various measures collectively called lockdown. But of course we need to ignore morbidity, absenteeism due to illness and all the other non-lethal effects of SARS-cov2.

    Your ONS link is useful to read, but I will pass on to the next by Whitney Webb, who writes well in many fields. The focus of her essay is mainly on how the pandemic has been used to increase state control. I have no disagreement with this, in fact I think the pandemic has been misused in this way, and so has the opportunity to enrich friends and acolytes, and stuff money into various friends’ pockets by the governing neoliberal capitalists. This disaster capitalism is well knowN and disasters are used in this way. But this is not to say that there was a disaster in the first place. To say that the disaster was real and that it is misused, is different from saying that the disaster was created in order to achieve a hidden agenda. The second is merely a conspiracy theory that has implications of collusion of almost all countries all politicians and all scientists and doctors (apart from about 200-300 often quoted by certain websites).

    The last link I am afraid is just sheer scientific nonsense with little evidence. The arguments presented have been discussed in the other forum under similar claims made by Mike Yeadon, if you wish to look at that.

    In summary I think denying the severity and the consequences of this pandemic is something that is easy to disprove. But that does not mean that I would not criticize the way it has been misused, the way it has been mishandled or the way it has been used to counteract dissent. But the vociferousness of those who try to belittle the effects of the virus merely gives more weight to the authorities to clamour for more censorship.

    #62381 Reply

    Nothinguptop – “there is a strong understanding of the deaths this kind of thing inevitably leads to.

    – Always.”

    Not so. China had a huge outbreak, locked down hard and controlled it. In South Korea, infection got into a travelling evangelical church leading to initial high numbers, but through prompt action (and I suppose some luck) those infected were traced, and further outbreaks were thereby suppressed. New Zealand acted pre-emptively, closing its borders and applying restrictions early, thereby keeping numbers remarkably low.

    “Lockdown” is misunderstood, because none of the official spokespeople or media have explained it. Preferably, “lockdown” is a tool of last resort, for when infection numbers are too high for tracing with testing and quarantine to be practical. Based on the current death rate I guess there to be about 400,000 potentially infectious people in the UK right now. Finding them, and everyone they have shared air with in recent days, and testing all of these hopelessly overwhelms the capacity for doing so.

    Seemingly paradoxically, this also made “lockdown” the tool of first resort in this particular pandemic. Because it was a brand new virus, test kits were in very short supply, but production increased rapidly.

    The government should have shown leadership, explaining why we needed “lockdown” and the conditions under which it could be lifted – “When we have x times as many test kits as infections, we’ll be able to control this with tracking, testing and quarantine. Until then, our only means to control it is by staying locked down”. That would have given the population a goal to work towards.

    Instead we have been given chaotic and confusing messages, most people have been denied sufficient support for avoiding cross-infection through work, and hardly any quarantine facilities have been provided. It’s government abdication of responsibility on a massive scale. Dealing with this sort of emergency is the purpose of having governments, but forty years of “leave everything to the markets” and “There Is No Alternative” have left us, preditably, with no alternative.

    #62544 Reply

    Harcombe’s article is confused, contradictory, dishonest and nonsense.

    She’s claiming that SAGE, particularly Ferguson, tricked the government into imposing “lockdown” to reduce the number of people getting infected, so that more people would eventually get vaccinated. But she contrasts the UK with Sweden (as do all these cranks) despite Sweden having a lower proportion infected than the UK. And she repeats the false accusations against Ferguson found on the Lockdownsceptics site.

    Basically, Harcombe’s article is just a hit-piece against Ferguson built from other people’s dishonesty; not even original. Here’s a good comment thread from statistical modellers who assessed Ferguson’s predictions and code for themselves:

    And the ICL model was only one of several anyway:

    It seems to me that Harcombe is none too honest, and just writes what she knows certain people want to hear. For instance, here’s an article in which she insinuates that the reproduction number Rt is entirely unrelated to the death rate:

    But look how she omits R (the red bands) when it was very high ie. before the first peak in deaths, and she cuts off the deaths (the blue line) just as it starts to rise again. If she’d shown this data it would be clear that in both cases, a peak in R preceded a peak in the death rate, which is exactly what should be expected.

    #62547 Reply

    It is interesting that these covid sceptics still use Sweden as an example of how to succeed without lockdown. The truth is that that may have been a moment in time, early on but the current statistics show that out of the 5 Scandinavian countries Sweden has by far the worst death rate per million of population:
    Sweden 633
    Denmark 135
    Finland 68
    Norway 56

    #62548 Reply

    SA, the whole “lockdown versus no lockdown” is a distracting oversimplification. It’s so obvious that it shouldn’t need stating, but it’s social behaviour that affects the cross-infection rate, not the law. Sweden couldn’t have a lockdown without a change in its constitution because the government is not permitted to restrict the population in peacetime, but “recommendations” from Sweden’s independent but official departments are treated by the population as if they were law, and social mixing has dropped immensely in Sweden.

    Sweden has done better than the UK, probably because the Swedish authorities acted sooner and have given consistent messages throughout, and because the people have more trust in what their official institutions ask of them.

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