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To think we should let scientific advisers advise?

(182 Posts)
MayBeMaw Fri 17-Dec-21 07:11:36

Well, well, well. Apparently Professor Chris Whitty has come under fire from Tory MPs after urging the public to scale back their plans before Christmas, with claims that medical advisers are “running the show” on Covid policy.
Tory MPs are said to have questioned the level of influence wielded by Prof Whitty
(I might question the level of competence by the same MPs, but there you go. )
Conservative backbenchers hit out at England’s Chief Medical Officer after he told the public to prioritise events that “really matter”, signalling that less important gatherings should be skipped to curb the spread of omicron.
Critics claimed Prof Whitty’s comments at the No 10 news conference on Wednesday evening were markedly stronger than the Prime Minister’s message.
It seems to me that “prioritising” is exactly what sensible people are or should be doing. Do we want to be with our families at Christmas or do we chance the pub quiz night? Office drinks party or seeing the children/grandchildren? Train to London to see the Christmas lights or give it a miss this year?
There is risk in everything, but it’s obvious to me that the alternatives to making sensible choices could be either a massive surge in infection and/or total lockdown.

Alegrias1 Mon 20-Dec-21 19:46:45


I do not think that, but someone has to make the final decision after all the discussion has taken place and from the ouside it looks superficially as one person makes all the decision.

I would like to know who the different teams are that are consulted, what their advice is and how it is justified. I would like to know what factors their forecasts are based on.

I have done forecasting and whenever I did I would write a report telling the person receiving the forecast, what factors I took into account, what statistical methods I used and the basis on which those forecasts were modified after the maths was done.

These should all be in the public domain.

I don't know for sure, M0nica, but I think most of the methodology is in the public domain, but the MSM just cherry pick the scariest projections.

M0nica Tue 21-Dec-21 06:57:12

I was looking at a set of projections yesterday from a very reputable team of university forecasters.. I think they were daily hospital admissions. The top figure was 6,000 and the low figure 2,000 and I looked at them and thought what a useless set of figures. Two thirds of the maximum figure was the variation between lower and upper figure. What on earth use are two figures with so much divergence between them to anyone trying to plan ahead, whether for hospital admissions or anything else.

They looked like the figures of a unit that was scared of being wrong so produced figures that would encapsulate every possible figure.

When I was involved in forecasting we always looked at the figures that came out of our calculations and then ran a reality check on them and produced figures that were of use to people.

Luckygirl3 Tue 21-Dec-21 09:43:55

I think the figures reflect the uncertainty and lack of current knowledge about the Omicon variant.

Luckygirl3 Tue 21-Dec-21 09:51:32

Look - we all acknowledge that scientists can be wrong and that predictions are difficult with a new variant and that scientists might disagree and that we are all human and that life is uncertain .............

BUT - this is the best we have got at the moment and we have to take the advice we are given, and that is endorsed by WHO and a host of other countries. We do not need full details of every study to be in the public domain and thrust before us to cause even more confusion and uncertainty for everyone. We need the conclusions and we need for Whitty to convey the balance of these clearly and unequivocally - he has done this. We may not like those conclusions but we have to bite the bullet and just get on with it all.

MayBee70 Tue 21-Dec-21 12:33:54

Unlike at other times we can’t wait for extensive studies and peer reviewed papers before we act: pro activity is vital if we are to get our normal lives back. As long as we learn from everything ( although, sadly, if it’s like other things I doubt if lessons will be learned…) I mean, this virus isn’t even alive. It can only exist by us allowing it to.

M0nica Tue 21-Dec-21 14:30:53

Extensive studies and peer reviewed papers aren't needed. Just comparing forecasts with actuals to show which scientific teams are getting nearest to forecasting is sufficient. We now have 2 years of actuals to run against the forecasts and the Sage figures have been consistently alarmist and have been much criticised by their equals in the research departments of other institutions.

But since the publication of the twitter conversation between Frazer Nelson, editor of the Spectator and Professor Graham Medley, chair of the Sage modelling committee, we now why the Sage modelling is, at best mediocre, if not away with the fairies

Puzzled by the gap between 'reassuring reports from South Africa and Sage's dark forbodings' Nelson asked Medley why Sage did not include the SA experience in their own forecasts. The reply Prof. Medley gave was 'Decision-makers are generally only only interested in situations where decisions have to be made' which means, only show them the worst forecasts because those require action, they are not interested in scenarios that do not require decisisons

If you doubt that interpretation, when Nelson questioned this further Medley replied 'We generally model what we are asked to model'. So if the government asks for worst scenarios this is what they will be given even if there are alternative scenarios that are far more optimistic.