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Advantage Magazine – Spring 2021

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Advantage Magazine – Spring 2021

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Welcome to the Spring issue of Advantage Magazine…

In this issue...

In vaccines we trust?
Monica Martinez-Bravo and Andreas Stegmann

The ties that bind: How contact with other regions can strengthen feelings of national identity
Manuel Bagues and Christopher Roth

An early influencer? How Martin Luther's network helped him make the Protestant Reformation a success
Sascha O. Becker and Jared Rubin

Putting people's welfare first: A new experimental approach to help Syrian refugees find jobs in Jordan
Stefano Caria

Essay Competition Winner: Summary of Mark Harrison’s ‘Contracting for counterintelligence'
Julia Tattersall

Parting shot
Mirko Draca

The articles in this issue showcase CAGE’s policy-driven economics at its best. While each project featured has taken advantage of data opportunities in very specific geographical or historical contexts, the findings and insights drawn from the data have a much wider relevance.

Our cover story analyses the aftermath of the shocking revelation in 2011 that the CIA undertook a fake vaccination programme to hunt for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The revelation and ensuing anti-vaccination propaganda campaign by the Taliban provided a unique opportunity to understand how anti-vaccination sentiment affects the uptake of vaccinations. Monica Martinez-Bravo’s and Andreas Stegmann’s findings are particularly meaningful in the context of the current COVID-19 vaccination drive.

Next, we move to Spain, where Manuel Bagues and Christopher Roth take advantage of a natural experiment – the Spanish lottery for military conscription – to understand how interregional contact affects sentiments of cultural cohesion and national identity (very pertinent for the UK at the moment). Then on to Germany during the Protestant Reformation: Sascha O. Becker and Jared Rubin consider the effects of Martin Luther's networks on the spread of Protestantism, revealing details about information flows and the spread of ideas that can tell us much about human interaction today. Finally, we move to Jordan, where Stefano Caria has tested out a new algorithm proposed as a modification to the randomised controlled trial – which enables larger numbers of participants to benefit from the policy schemes being tested.

In this issue we’re also delighted to include the CAGE Essay Prize Winner 2020, Julia Tattersall. Her summary of Mark Harrison’s paper on KGB methods in Lithuania during the Cold War is beautifully crafted and a really engaging read.

At a time when our social spheres have changed considerably, these articles offer intriguing insights into the power of human interaction, social networks and the way in which we assimilate – and act on – information. We hope you enjoy the issue.

Stephanie Seavers, Editor