Neil Ferguson

Imperial College bio

Jan 2020 archive - Faculty of Medicine, School of Public Health

My research aims to improve understanding of the epidemiological factors and population processes shaping infectious disease spread in human and animal populations. A key practical focus is the analysis and optimisation of intervention strategies aimed at reducing transmission or disease burden. Much of my work is applied, informing disease control policy-making by public and global health institutions.

With recent advances in data availability (both epidemiological and molecular) and affordable high-performance computing, mathematical models of infectious disease spread now offer the potential to provide predictive, quantitative analyses of alternative disease control and treatment strategies, as well as qualitative insight into the complex non-linear processes shaping pathogen replication and evolution…

A major research interest throughout my career has been on developing mathematical models of the geographic spread of newly emergent pathogens - such as BSE/vCJD, foot and mouth disease, SARS and MERS, pandemic influenza, Ebola and ZIka - to examine containment and mitigation strategies. Much of this work has been undertaken in collaboration with colleagues in my department and external institutions - most notably public health partners such as the World Health Organization [WHO], the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and Public Health England.

These partnerships have been vital in facilitating the results of my work being used to inform policy. Building on our earlier work, I and my colleagues founded the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis (previously known as MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling) in 2008 to consolidate and enhance our work on emerging infections and its translation to public health policy-making.

A second major current personal research interest is the epidemilogy and control of major mosquito-borne diseases, notably malaria (working with Azra Ghani) and 'flaviviruses' - a family of viruses which includes dengue, yellow fever and Zika.

Recently been published in Science, my research on the Sanofi vaccine (in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Florida and Johns Hopkins University) examined the benefits and risks associated with large-scale roll-out immunisation programmes using this vaccine. Our analysis showed that the the complex efficacy trends seen in the clinical trials of the vaccine was consitent with the hypothesis that the vaccine acted akin to a silent (i.e. non-symptomatic) natural infection - priming the immune system of people who have never had dengue (and thus potentially increasing their risk of experience severe dengue infection in future), but boosting the immunity of those who experienced dengue before being vaccinated (thus dramatically reducing their risk of experiencing severe dengue disease in future).1)

Adventures in Modeling

Ferguson's Lock-down Model

Imperial Folly - Neil Ferguson Has No Qualification in Biological Sciences

February 25, 2021 By NEWS WIRE

This is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary stories of the entire ‘global pandemic’ which has turned the world upside down over the twelve months.

In an article published by Lockdown Skeptics by Derek Winton entitled, The Imperial Model and its Role in the UK’s Pandemic Response, the author rightly calls into questions to relevant scientific experience of who is arguably the UK government’s most consequential science advisor of the COVID crisis – the notorious Neil Ferguson from Imperial College.

Indeed, it was Ferguson who created the original fictional scenario which was used to convince the government and mainstream media that COVID would somehow cause over 500,000 deaths in Britain unless the government ‘acted swiftly’ to institute harsh ‘mitigation’ measures such as lockdowns, or as Freddie Sayers of UnHerd describes, a “forecast that in a scenario without interventions, 81% of the UK population would become infected, and that 0.9% of them would die, ie 510,000 fatalities. That, famously, was the scenario that bounced the UK government into changing its approach.”

Like with previous pandemic scares, Ferguson was not even close, and yet here we are again. The lockdowns that followed last March have decimated the British economy and society, and in only 12 months has nearly destroyed the country’s education system. It has led to one totalitarian policy after another, and with no end in sight – even though the alleged ‘novel’ coronavirus in question was only a seasonal respiratory virus, and as proven statistically now – this coronavirus not at all lethal or a danger to the general population, as it only seemed to adversely affect the elderly with multiple chronic health conditions.

Despite his epics failures, he still sits on the government’s venerated SAGE science conclave. Not surprisingly, these high priests of The Science have been wrong about every aspect of the pandemic since day one of the crisis. But it’s not just problems with performance and competency, there is also the question of expertise. What makes Ferguson an expert on viruses?

It is here that Winton questions his qualifications, commenting, “The expertise of an expert is entirely relevant, indeed arguably it’s the only thing that is relevant. So let’s look at the qualifications of our expert.”

As it turns out, Ferguson hold no formal qualifications at all in the biological sciences – not as a microbiologist, a virologist, nor as an epidemiologist or biological statistician. Instead he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics (1990) from Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford, followed by his Doctorate of Philosophy in theoretical physics (1994) form Linacre College, in Oxford.

So claims in the media which repeated describe Ferguson as ‘one of the country’s top epidemiologists’ – are quite misleading. While Ferguson has worked on lots of computer modelling and abstract simulations for various epidemics (and wildly inaccurate on many of them), he is not at all qualified to warrant any authoritative caché in field of biological science. He shouldn’t be anyway, and yet he is. It’s a strange situation to say the least.

As with so many thing in media and government, it seems nobody bothered to check.

Winton reveals, “In an interview on the BBC’s Life Scientific, Ferguson conceded to not having an A-level in Biology. As far as publicly available information is accurate, he appears to have no formal training in computer modelling, medicine or epidemiology either.”

But it’s actually much worse than that. Many recoiled in horror after another Times in December 2020 when Ferguson openly admitted that he was guided (inspired?) by the unprecedented actions of the Chinese Communist Party who invented the brutal ‘lockdown’ method of social control to supposedly contain COVID in Wuhan province in early 2020.

“I think people’s sense of what is possible in terms of control changed quite dramatically between January and March,” he said.

According to Ferguson, both he and and the UK government’s increasingly shaky SAGE science committee regarded China experimental totalitarian lockdown policy as “innovative intervention”2)

The Failure of Imperial College Modeling Is Far Worse than We Knew

by Phillip W. Magness – April 22, 2021 - American Institute for Economic Research

Ferguson predicted catastrophic death tolls back on March 16, 2020 unless governments around the world adopted his preferred suite of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to ward off the pandemic. Most countries followed his advice, particularly after the United Kingdom and United States governments explicitly invoked his report as a justification for lockdowns.

Ferguson’s team at Imperial would soon claim credit for saving millions of lives through these policies – a figure they arrived at through a ludicrously unscientific exercise where they purported to validate their model by using its own hypothetical projections as a counterfactual of what would happen without lockdowns. But the June hearing in Parliament drew attention to another real-world test of the Imperial team’s modeling, this one based on actual evidence.3)

Lock-down Scandal

May 05, 2020 · by Milena Veselinovic, CNN

Professor Neil Ferguson, who is based at Imperial College in London, is one of the architects of the UK government stay-at-home strategy and was a prominent member of Britain's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies SAGE which has been spearheading the coronavirus response.

In a statement to CNN, Professor Ferguson said he accepted he made “an error of judgement and took the wrong course of action,” and had therefore stepped back from his involvement in SAGE. “I acted in the belief that I was immune, having tested positive for coronavirus and completely isolated myself for almost two weeks after developing symptoms,” he said.

“I deeply regret any undermining of the clear messages around the continued need for social distancing to control this devastating epidemic.”4)

May 5, 2020 - The Guardian UK coronavirus adviser Neil Ferguson resigns after breaking lockdown rules

Key expert in coronavirus response resigns from Sage after admitting ‘error of judgment’ Prof Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist whose modelling helped shape Britain’s coronavirus lockdown strategy, has quit as a government adviser after flouting the rules by receiving visits from his lover at his home.

Ferguson runs the group of scientists at Imperial College London whose projections helped persuade ministers of the need to impose stringent physical distancing rules, or risk the NHS being overwhelmed.

In a statement on Tuesday, he said he was resigning his post on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), over an “error of judgment”.5)

Propaganda for Ferguson Lockdowns

Britain’s Covid experts are under attack, but they are just doing their jobs by Fiona Fox - The Guardian

NOTE - Fiona Fox was longtime Monsanto go to “science journalist” see GMWatch links October 2010 - More on Fiona Fox, the Director of Britain's pro-GM Science Media Centre, and her LM colleagues.6) June 2013 Fiona Fox, the CEO of the (London) Science Media Centre, has today been awarded an OBE (Order Of The British Empire) for “services to science”7)

(select claims ) by Fiona Hill Those who attack Neil Ferguson and Sage’s pandemic predictions only expose their ignorance about science

It feels like open season on Professor Neil Ferguson right now. Sections of the media and several columnists delight in castigating the epidemiologist, or “Professor Lockdown”, for being “doomster in chief”, constantly predicting catastrophe and then backpeddling when the worst numbers don’t materialise.

Opponents of Covid restrictions blame Ferguson and his team at Imperial College London for persuading Boris Johnson to shake off his libertarian instincts and take us into lockdown. One presenter on new channel GB News described Ferguson as a “numpty” on air, and the very mention of his name attracts groans in some circles.

But the attacks on Ferguson often betray a fundamental misunderstanding of scientific modelling and, indeed, the way science works.

Lambasting epidemiologists for changing their minds is not the insult it may seem. “All models are wrong but some are useful” is a favoured saying of modellers. But it doesn’t follow that a modeller’s guess is no better than anyone else’s. They are not sitting gazing into a crystal ball; they are looking at numbers and using them to work out possible scenarios.

Critics often remind us that the worst-case scenarios in some of those early models suggested that there could be up to 500,000 deaths. But those numbers were reasonable with no vaccines or lockdown. In the end the number of deaths was thankfully lower than that – not because the modellers were winging it or the virus was less virulent than initially thought, but because the public generally accepted the need for restrictions, which bought the time to develop vaccines.

The other myth perpetuated by those who don’t like Ferguson is that he was the “architect of the lockdown”. While he is undoubtedly an influential scientist and much loved by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the reality of how science has informed decision-making is quite different.

The whole point of Sage and the Spi-M-O advisory group is that we don’t rely on individual models or views but develop a consensus of what the science is telling us which can be useful to policymakers.

It is right that scientists and evidence are scrutinised. The scientific endeavour is based on testing ideas and self-correction, and external challenges make science better. But calling scientists rude names and encouraging the public not to trust experts who revise their data and correct themselves is anti-science and anti-intellectual.

Fiona Fox is chief executive of the Science Media Centre (petrochemical PR)8)

Past Predictions Epic Failures

2001 “The Imperial College team, whose work is published on the website of the journal Nature, predicts the future number of deaths from vCJD due to BSE in beef was likely to lie between 50 and 50,000.” – Daily Mail “But Dr. Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist in another group of highly respected researchers led by Dr. Roy Anderson at Imperial College in London, said the new estimates were ”unjustifiably optimistic.” His group published estimates a year ago predicting that the number of variant C.J.D. cases might reach 136,000 in coming decades.” – New York Times Oct 31st 2001

FACT - A total of 2826 people have died from CJD over 30 years – National CJD Research and Surveillance Unit, The University of Edinburgh

2005 “Last month Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, told Guardian Unlimited that up to 200 million people could be killed.” – The Guardian Sep 30th 2005

FACT- “Since 2013 there have been 1,568 human cases of bird flu and 616 deaths worldwide from the H7N9 strain.” – The Express Dec 7th 2020

In 2009, Ferguson and his Imperial team predicted that swine flu had a case fatality rate 0.3 per cent to 1.5 per cent. His most likely estimate was that the mortality rate was 0.4 per cent. A government estimate, based on Ferguson’s advice, said a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ was that the disease would lead to 65,000 UK deaths.

FACT - 457 people are known to have died during the pandemic in the UK as of 18 March 2010” –

In addition to these debacles, Ferguson as goaded the British government with outrageous predictions about the disastrous Foot and Mouth disease crisis – which sparked the mass-culling of farm animals during the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic which cost the country billions of pounds, with most rural areas never recovering from the over-the-top government intervention.9)

One More Public Health Fraud

British scientist and Professor Neil Ferguson of The Imperial College, London (the same Imperial College of London funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was responsible for developing the mathematical pandemic computer models for the COVID-19 pandemic. The world followed Ferguson’s advice, yet all his models have been proven to be grossly over stated and misleading.

For example, Ferguson modeled that Sweden would experience 100,000 deaths by June, 2020. To date, Sweden peaked at 2,854 deaths total. 10) 11)

Print/export