The coronavirus outbreak has shone a bright light on the use of experts and scientific advice. In the UK the prime minister, Boris Johnson, is flanked by his chief scientist and chief medical officer when giving updates about his response to the outbreak – emphasising that it is driven by scientific advice. Similarly, the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has urged people to “trust in science” while Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, has referred to “consensus among experts”.
But the question I have is where are the engineers in this? Surely, before we shut down the entire society in response to the pandemic, we should check if there are engineering solutions that could help halt or slow the spread of the virus – from door handles that kill viruses to new ways of pressing lift buttons.
In the UK, the government normally consults the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) in