New inquiry into scientific advice and evidence in emergencies

27 July 2010

The Committee agreed on 27 July 2010 to hold an inquiry into scientific advice and evidence in emergencies.

Sound scientific advice and evidence often play a crucial part in national emergencies. Following recent high profile emergencies such as the swine flu pandemic and the Icelandic volcanic ash eruptions, the new Science and Technology Committee has today announced its first inquiry, examining the Government’s use of scientific advice and evidence in emergency situations.

The terms of reference for this inquiry are outlined below, and the Committee invites written submissions on these issues by Tuesday 14 September.

The inquiry will examine four case studies: (i) the swine flu pandemic in 2009, (ii) the Icelandic volcanic ash eruptions in 2010, and the potential emergency situations that (iii) solar storms and (iv) cyber attacks could cause. In relation to these case studies, the Committee is seeking views on the following:

  1. What are the potential hazards and risks and how were they identified? How prepared is/was the Government for the emergency?
  2. How does/did the Government use scientific advice and evidence to identify, prepare for and react to an emergency?
  3. What are the obstacles to obtaining reliable, timely scientific advice and evidence to inform policy decisions in emergencies? Has the Government sufficient powers and resources to overcome the obstacles? For case studies (i) and (ii) was there sufficient and timely scientific evidence to inform policy decisions?
  4. How effective is the strategic coordination between Government departments, public bodies, private bodies, sources of scientific advice and the research base in preparing for and reacting to emergencies?
  5. How important is international coordination and how could it be strengthened?

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to and marked "emergencies". An additional paper copy should be sent to:

The Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA

Image: iStockphoto

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