MPs are concerned the country may not have enough scientific advisors to help deal with a disaster

The UK needs to ensure there are enough scientific experts that can advise the government and inform the public in case of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear emergency, a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee inquiry has found. Their report also warns there is ‘a confusing landscape of organisations and acronyms’ that might limit the access to scientific information in such cases.

In Science in emergencies: chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents, the committee calls on the government to ensure the UK is ready for potential emergencies. Scientists that are available to form emergency advice groups could help formulate an immediate response in such cases, but the government’s list of such advisors might be out of date. The report points out that many scientists involved in emergency advice groups, such as the one set up after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in 2011, have since retired.

The committee also highlighted the need for scientific press officers in each advice group. Briefing the public in case of disaster and educating people on topics such as radiation should be a priority, said Stephen Metcalfe, chair of the committee, in a statement. ‘Getting accurate science to the public during a chemical or nuclear incident is absolutely crucial,’ he said, adding that a lack of good scientific information during a crisis ‘could cause panic and misinformation to spread’.