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The Frailties of Expert Judgement in UK Public Policy: The COVID-19 Experience

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Mathur, Pranjal 


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Kingdom deployed a set of measures to reduce the impacts of the spread of SARS-CoV-2. These measures included a national lockdown and restrictions to most leisure activities. Analysis of relevant testimony and scientific data reveals that the UK Government had a delayed reaction, in which the opportunity cost of lives and economic stability were lost. Information on the severity of the virus was made available as early as January 2020. However, inaction remained the chosen strategy up until March 2020. Analysis of decision-making and biases suggests that lack of diversity in decision- making is of concern in prevailing top-down decisions. While the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) was able to showcase a variety of conclusions from their modelling data, the evaluation of models as a strategic tool for outcome analysis was poor. For example, when compared to Austria, the UK was slow in acting on modelling data as a probabilistic tool for mitigating risks. Limitations of the decision-making process are also explored to make the case that decisions made through a better integrated framework of health professionals, non- experts and policymakers could reduce risk and lead to more meaningful outcomes.



Evidence-based, Decision-making, Experts, SAGE

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Cambridge Journal of Science and Policy

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Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange

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