in the United Kingdom, the Imperial College tries to protect itself from the politicization of the scientific debate

An Imperial College professor in London working on a coronavirus vaccine on February 10.
An Imperial College professor in London working on a coronavirus vaccine on February 10. TOLGA AKMEN / AFP

This scoop of Financial times, Saturday, May 23, remained almost confidential in the United Kingdom, shaken by the scandal "Cummings", named after the close adviser of Boris Johnson who broke the rules of containment. But it says a lot about the increasingly complicated relationship between scientists and politicians in the country. The modeling teams at Imperial College, according to business daily, preferred to delay the publication of a study on the epidemiological consequences of deconfinement.

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At the end of April, tells the Financial times, the MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis said that a long-awaited report, simulating the deaths to be feared based on the various measures to lift the containment, was due the following week. At the end of May, it had still not been made public.

The decision was made to favor the publication of the survey in a scientific journal, after a peer review, following repeated criticisms against the relevance of the mathematical models of Imperial College. "The results (of the research) have been shared with the (British) government, and we are now preparing its submission to a scientific journal" confirmed at World a spokesperson for the MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, Tuesday, May 26.

An “error in judgment”

At least eight Imperial College researchers are members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the scientific committee advising the Johnson government, or official subcommittees. Their models were used as support to the government to decide the entry in containment – late in the United Kingdom, March 23. In particular that of March 16, 2020 led by Neil Ferguson, vice-dean of the faculty of medicine of Imperial College, who predicted, in the absence of containment of the population, "Around 510,000 dead in the UK (from Covid-19) and 2.2 million dead in the United States ".

Containment was little disputed in April, at the height of the epidemic – nor was the work of scientists. But there was the resignation of Neil Ferguson on May 5. The 51-year-old epidemiologist, who has been in the media since mid-March, had to leave SAGE in a hurry following revelations from the Daily Telegraph. The conservative daily said he had met at his home in "At least twice" in April, a 38-year-old woman who had crossed London for " spend time " with him, outside the confinement rules. "I acknowledge having committed an error in judgment", said Mr. Ferguson to Telegraph.

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