Terms of reference of the Technical Advisory Cell
The purpose of the Welsh Government Technical Advisory Group is to ensure that scientific and technical information and advice, including advice coming from the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE)1, 2, 3 for COVID-19, is developed and interpreted in order to:
- Ensure Welsh Government and the Welsh public sector have timely access to the most up-to-date scientific and technical information related to the outbreak.
- Interpret SAGE outputs and their implications for a Welsh context.
- Commission and interpret data models, research outputs and measurements specific to Wales’s needs that help understand the nature, scope and spread of COVID-19 in Wales.
- As members of SAGE, relay scientific questions from Welsh Government and contribute relevant scientific papers, advice or data.
- Support a collegiate approach to science and technology advice and research in all areas of COVID-19 working with colleagues across all the four nations.
- Provide advice and data to inform Welsh Government, NHS, Social Care and wider public sector policy and planning.
- Communicate and share understanding of the virus with the public sector and the general public in an open and transparent way.
TAG does not:
- Replace the extant functions of Strategic Coordination groups (SCG) or local Scientific Technical Advisory Cells (STACs).
- Replace statutory functions of Public Health Wales.
- Develop Welsh Government policy or comment on the decisions of Welsh Ministers although it can provide advice to decision and policy makers.
The Technical Advisory Group is part of the Welsh Government’s emergency response to COVID-19.
Priorities for TAG
While recognising that scientific evidence is often incomplete and conditional the overarching priority of TAG is to provide the best possible scientific and technical advice to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Wales.
As a scientific advisory group TAG’s role is not to decide policy but to summarise and distil available research to help guide Ministers in their decision making.
Current priorities develop from this and are subject to change, but include:
- To better understand and interpret the epidemiology of the virus in Wales, the UK and in a global context, including risk factors around demographics, geographies and vulnerable groups (e.g. age).
- To provide modelling such as estimates and forecast scenarios to assist with planning and decision making in all parts of the Welsh public sector in response to COVID-19.
- To advise on the most appropriate ways to detect and monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Wales as effectively as possible.
- To advise on appropriate interventions to protect the well-being of the Welsh population from COVID-19, to highlight the indirect harms that could be caused as a result of proposed interventions and to support policy makers in identifying appropriate mitigations.
- To provide insights around behavioural science and risk communication to inform policy makers and communication with the public.
- To consider emerging therapeutic, diagnostic and other opportunities to treat, detect or monitor SARS-CoV2.
- To consider the genomics of the virus, and emerging variants, and advise on potential implications for current and planned interventions.
- To work in collaboration with the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre and consider the wider research and evidence landscape.
- To support the transition from pandemic to endemic and consider the longer term scientific and technical requirements for future re-emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and other future pandemics.
- To support the development and understanding of the impact of COVID-19 recovery strategies.
This list of priorities is not exclusive, and should be periodically reviewed and updated by the Co-Chairs, with input from TAG.
TAG and TAC
TAG is the Technical Advisory Group, comprising scientific and technical experts who provide science advice and guidance to the Welsh Government in response to COVID-19.
TAG is a time limited group which will be stood down following the end of the state of emergency.
TAC is the Technical Advisory Cell, comprising the core team of Welsh Government civil servants and provides a secretariat function for TAG and its associated subgroups.
Reporting and commissioning
TAG provides independent scientific and technical advice across Welsh Government on COVID-19. The responsibility and accountability for TAG sit with the Co-Chairs who in turn are managed by an Oversight Board comprising the Director General for Health & Social Services, the Director General COVID Crisis Coordination and the Chief Medical Officer.
A weekly meeting of TAG subgroup Chairs agrees commissions and emerging areas of concern that require further information and discussion at TAG. The TAG Co-Chairs also attend a weekly UK Science Coordination Group, to ensure coordination with upcoming SAGE activity, and a bi-weekly 4 Nations Scientific Co-ordination Group, to consider more strategic scientific matters.
Information access and sharing
Information arising from TAG is official-sensitive and is not shared outside of these structures without the approval of the TAG Co-Chairs or TAG subgroup Chairs prior to publication. Discussions during meetings of TAG and TAG subgroups are considered official-sensitive and should not be quoted or referenced without relevant clearance.
Information arising from SAGE and its subgroups is official sensitive and should not be shared beyond the needs of the devolved administration without the approval of the SAGE secretariat.
All members of TAG and TAG subgroups are required to sign a Declaration of Interest.
Papers and publications
In principle, TAG is committed to sharing information and findings with the public wherever possible in line with the original commission. TAG will make every effort to publish technical outputs as promptly as possible. Contributions and contributors to TAG are encouraged to publish their findings in relevant peer reviewed journals. Some papers may be dependent on the publication of other papers such as those developed by SAGE, and in other cases it may be felt that there is a significant risk of misrepresentation or misunderstanding if published and as a result these papers may be kept official-sensitive.
No member of TAG or its subgroups is paid to be a member. The TAG Co-Chairs acknowledge and are grateful for the vast contributions of time, effort and expertise that have been volunteered to meet the needs of this emergency in Wales. By way of recognition, they will endeavour to provide letters of reference to relevant Vice-Chancellors highlighting the material contribution made by members that can be evidenced as recognition for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework where relevant.
Arrangements for meetings
Remote-access where possible.
Frequency of Meetings
Tuesday and Friday mornings, working in tandem with SAGE Meetings (currently Thursdays) and other subgroups.
The TAG Co-Chairs will agree the final agenda for each meeting of the TAG. Any attendee may ask for an item or paper to be included on the agenda.
Circulation of Papers
Agendas, supporting papers and minutes of the previous meeting will be circulated to attendees as soon as is practicably possible.
Minutes and actions of the most recent meeting will also be circulated as soon as is practicably possible after the meeting.
In order to preserve the independence and balance of expertise needed to provide scientific and technical advice to Welsh Government the majority of members of TAG and it subgroups should be drawn from academia and appropriate public sector bodies.
Membership of TAG is by invitation of the TAG Co-Chairs. TAG subgroup Chairs will be standing attendees. TAG subgroup attendees shall be by invitation of the subgroup TAG Chairs in agreement with TAG Co-Chairs. Membership will be supplemented by subject specific experts in line with agenda items or areas of discussion.
Individuals can be invited to observe where relevant, at the discretion of the TAG Co-Chairs. Observers should not take part in discussions unless called upon by the TAG Co-Chairs.
Other than in exceptional circumstances, all members of TAG should endeavour to attend all meetings.
Withdrawal of individuals in attendance
At the discretion of the TAG Co-Chairs, any or all individuals in attendance at a meeting of the TAG (i.e. non-attendees) may be asked to withdraw from parts of the meeting in order to facilitate full and frank discussion.
Conduct of urgent business
Where urgent business is required to be conducted between meetings, the TAG Co-Chairs will arrange for attendees views to be sought by email and the outcome will be reported to the next meeting of the TAG.
Decision making and escalation
TAG will seek to reach decisions by consensus. Where consensus is not reached, this will be highlighted in the relevant report or statement.
Declarations of Interest
Attendees of TAG will need to declare interests and a register of interests will be held by the secretariat and updated periodically.
Attendees must subscribe to and uphold the seven (Nolan) principles of public life.
TAG and TAC subgroup chairs
|Co-chair TAG, Welsh Government
|Dr Rob Orford
|Co-chair TAG, Chief Scientific Advisor for Health, Welsh Government
|Dr Brendan Collins
|Co-Chair Modelling and Socioeconomic subgroups, Welsh Government
|Co-Chair Policy Modelling Group and All Wales Modelling Forum. Welsh Government
|Dr Robin Howe
|Chair Testing Technical Advisory Group, Consultant Microbiologist, Public Health Wales
|Prof Ann John
|Chair Risk Communication and Behaviours Group, Professor in Public Health and Psychiatry, Swansea University
|Dr Robert Hoyle
|Chair International Intelligence Group, Welsh Government
|Prof Davey Jones
|Chair Environmental Science Group Professor of Soil & Environmental Science, Bangor University
|Dr Heather Payne
|Chair Children & Education Group. Child Health Senior Medical Officer, Welsh Government
|Prof Kieran Walshe
|Chair Research and Development Group Director of Health and Care Research Wales
|Co-Chair Socio-Economic Harms Subgroup, Chief Economist, Welsh Government
Subgroups, fora and terms of reference
Subgroups will be created when there is a need to consider a particular area in greater detail. Each subgroup provides advice with regards to their individual areas and there is an expectation that subgroups will proactively draw on the expertise available within TAG and TAC in doing so. All subgroups will operate within a scope set out in a Terms of Reference document. Current sub groups are:
|All Wales National Modelling Forum
|The purpose of this forum is to agree consistent and coherent methods and messages around COVID-19 models for use in Wales by the Welsh health services.
|The Policy Modelling subgroup coordinates modelling to support Welsh Government policy and decision making and intelligence, such as Reasonable Worst Case modelling scenarios and other data driven surveillance activities. The Chairs and some members are contributing members of SPI-M
The Research subgroup coordinates the Welsh Government approach to COVID-19 health and care research strategy and planning. Their core functions are:
|The Socio-Economic Harms subgroup oversees projects that aim to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on already disadvantaged sectors and groups in Wales. The subgroup uses evidence synthesis to identify potential policy options that may mitigate these social, economic and equity harms from COVID-19. The subgroup also oversees the evaluation of emerging national and international research and evidence on COVID-19 in the context of the economy and the potential harm that may be caused to specific sectors and groups in Wales.
|The International Intelligence subgroup evaluates emerging national and international research and evidence on COVID-19 in the context of: infection rates, death rates, testing, track and trace methods, imposition and easing of control measures, use and success of vaccines, travel restrictions into and out of countries, quarantine measures and other factors from which lessons may be learned that are applicable to Wales.
|Virology & Testing
|The Virology and Testing sub-group provides detailed and strategic consideration to the scientific and technical evidence on COVID-19 as it relates directly to virology and testing.
|Children & Schools
|The Children & Schools subgroup provides detailed and strategic consideration to the scientific and technical evidence on COVID-19 as it relates to children and schools settings. The Chair attends the SAGE group SPI-Kids
|Risk Communication & Behavioural Insights
The Risk Communication and Behavioural Insights subgroup provides behavioural and risk communication insights to inform the work of TAG and the interpretation, implementation and impact of the ongoing response to tackling coronavirus. The subgroup assesses the existing and potential risks, impacts and harms associated with the behaviours of people across Wales in relation to COVID-19 which includes:
The Chair and some members are contributing members of SPI-B.
|The Environmental Science subgroup discusses and researches all environmental studies and science in relation to COVID-19. The chair is a member of the SAGE group EMG.
For further information contact: HSSG.TAC@gov.wales