November 2006


Copyright © 2006 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved

A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

edited by Russel C. Jones, Ph.D., P.E., and Bethany S. Jones, Ph.D.



1 - International developments

2 - US developments

3 - Technology

4 - Students, faculty, education

5 – Employment, competitiveness

6 – Journals



1 - International developments

German program fosters excellence in universities – The German Research Foundation is committing  €1.9-billion in an Excellence Initiative, according to an article in the November 10th Wall Street Journal by Rhea Wessel. Three universities have won top-level “elite” funding of about €21-million each, and an additional 17 universities have won a higher level of funding for proposals to create “excellence clusters”.  German universities have repeatedly stressed the need for new money to allow them to hire professors for the long term, and begin longer research projects. The Excellence Initiative has spawned a culture of competition at Germany ’s universities and put an official end to the notion that all schools are equal because they receive equal funding. (See 

Kremlin brings Russian Academy to heel – In the past decade, the 282-year old Russian Academy of Sciences has come under attack. According to an article in the November 10th Science by Andrey Allakhverdov and Vladimir Pokrovsky, a rising chorus of critics has caricatured it as a bastion of privilege bloated with mediocre scientists who draw annual salaries while resisting every effort at reform. During the last four years+ the Russian science minister has vowed repeatedly to modernize RAS and its 400 institutes. Now the government has unveiled amendments to the science law that would give President Putin’s cabinet the right to approve the selection of future RAS presidents and changes in the academy’s charter. RAS will continue to receive about 35% of the Russian government’s R&D spending, which in 2006 amounted to $1.27-billion, but the next RAS president will be accountable for spending it wisely. (See

Spain reconsiders its university reform law – Spain reformed its laws in 2001 to open up academic hiring, imposing a national system for vetting candidates. But now, according to an article in the November 19th Science by Xavier Bosch, a bill being debated in Spain ’s Parliament would give more leeway to universities in hiring. The academic community is deeply divided on the issue, with some academic leaders pleased and others saying that it is a step backward to a time when universities often hired local candidates, leading to inbreeding. Spanish universities rarely seek talent from afar when they hire professors, and under the past system they were particularly inward looking. The proposed new law would continue a national commission to review candidates, but would then allow universities free choice in selection. (See

Gunmen kidnap education officials in Baghdad Gunmen dressed in Iraqi police uniforms and driving what appeared to be official vehicles rounded up scores of people at a Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research building in central Baghdad in one of the most brazen mass kidnappings since the American invasion. According to an article by Michael Luo in the November 15th International Herald Tribune, academics have been frequent targets in Iraq , and this abduction led to the clearing of such campuses as the Technology University . The number of hostages taken was estimated at between 100 and 150. The Minister of Higher Education, in decrying the attack, skirted the question of whether he believed the kidnapping had a sectarian motive. (See

Financial strains at Oxford The vice-chancellor at Oxford University is struggling to change the governance system there from the current 3773-strong Congregation, the single body of dons with responsibility for matters both learned and financial, to one with separate academic and financial boards. According to an article in the November 11th The Economist, John Hood, a New Zealander who is the first outsider to have the top post at Oxford in its 900-year history, has attempted to change the structure since his appointment in October 2004. He believes that reform is necessary if Oxford is to attract the cash to compete internationally for the brightest students and best researchers – a problem that faces each of Britain ’s better universities. (See

Religious pressures increase on Iran ’s universities – The Muslim leader who represents the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran ’s universities has called for separate university classes for men and women, and evaluation of faculty members’ religion and morals, writes Robert Tait on November 20 in the on-line version of The Guardian.  Speaking before a group of university administrators, Hojatoleslam M. Mohamadian said, “University chancellors are responsible not just for education and research, but for the religion, beliefs and ideas of students.” The ministry of higher education is resisting such moves, but the new proposals are strongly endorsed by key members of parliament. (See

Saudis again head to US campuses – A record number of nearly 11,000 Saudis are pursuing higher education in the US , reversing a years-long decline in students from the oil-rich kingdom, particularly after the 2001 terrorist attacks. According to an article by Caryle Murphy and Susan Kinzie in the November 11th Washington Post, the surge is a result of recent measures taken by the US and Saudi governments, including a major Saudi scholarship program for study abroad and streamlined issuance of student visas by the US Embassy in the Kingdom. The education initiative, which also envisions a second scholarship program to enable US scholars to study and teach in Saudi Arabia, arose from a mutual desire to counter growing hostility between the populations of both nations sparked by the discovery that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens. (See

Indian higher education disappointing to most students – According to a recent article published in the International Herald Tribune, with the exception of a small set of elite institutions, Indian higher education is condemning millions of students to at best underemployment because of outdated curricula.  While the students are not lacking in technical information or intelligence, they are not educated to perform in areas required by industry: the ability to speak excellent English, experience in giving PowerPoint presentations, the ability to work in groups and skill in writing coherent reports.  Anand Giridharadas, writing in the November 26 on-line edition of the IHT, reports that while 25% of Indian engineering graduates are employable by major companies, only 10% of those with general degrees are employable.  The situation is so bad that a college graduate in India has a worse chance of being employed than a high school graduate. (See

Chinese attempt to crack down on textbook piracy – The Ministry of Education in China has issued a notice demanding that universities take decisive steps to stop text-book piracy by the end of December, reports Paul Mooney in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  The government declared itself ready to impose severe punishments on those who violated the law by not using original editions of texts or authorized Chinese versions. Overseas textbook publishers have placed increasing pressure on China to stop this piracy.  Skeptics say that nothing will change in an environment where photocopying of textbooks is a routine matter and students with little money have few options but to obtain their texts through illegal means.  (See

Muslim cleric reports on Islamic extremism at UK universities – Sheikh Musa Admani, a Muslim chaplain at London Metropolitan University, claims that Islamic extremists have established themselves at Brunel University, Bedfordshire University, Sheffield Hallam University and Manchester Metropolitan University, all in the UK, and are indoctrinating students, provoking them to engage in jihad against the West.  Abul Taher and Dipesh Gadher, assisted by Shiv Malik, reported in a November 12 article in the Timesonline that Admani’s statements follow warnings from the British government about home-grown terrorists.  Activists are working around restrictions in place on college campuses against groups with radical links, and are surprising observers with their ability to turn some students so quickly toward violence.  (See

Faculty strike sends Ugandan students home Makerere University in Uganda was closed indefinitely as a strike by the faculty union began its second week.  30,000 students returned home.  The striking professors and lecturers were demanding both raises and a salary supplement, but the government said it could grant only the raises, reported Wachira Kigotho in The Chronicle of Higher Education. (See

Chinese students show unrest over limited job opportunities – Until recently, China ’s college students were confident of finding good employment opportunities after graduation, as their country’s economy grew by about 9% each of the past several years.  But now, reports Edward Cody writing in the November 24 on-line edition of the Washington Post, the number of graduates is seriously outpacing the availability of jobs, and the pool of unemployed graduates is growing each year.  The political threat to the Communist regime is clear: in the past it was farmers who were dissatisfied with their economic prospects, and their ability to pressure the government was limited.  Now, large numbers of discontented college educated young may pose a more serious threat to unresponsive leadership.   Since summer there have been at least ten riots by students unable to find suitable jobs.  (See

Some Canadian scholars try to shelter their research from US probes – The US Patriot Act, whose authority to gain privileged access to information in the name of counter terrorism, has prompted some Canadian universities to change their subscription to RefWorks, by moving from its US based server to a Canadian one.  RefWorks is an Internet based tool for researchers which permits people to store research information on the web.  But concern has been raised by some librarians and scholars that US government officials might be moved to examine RefWorks in order to detect potentially threatening research.  Moving to a Canadian server may not entirely protect scholars from scrutiny by Canada ’s own security agencies, but those agencies are covered by judicial oversight, reports Caroline Alphonso in the November 11 on-line version of The Globe and Mail.  (See


2 - US developments

Democrats sweep US Congress – Science policy lobbyists like to say that strengthening the US research enterprise isn’t a partisan issue. According to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the November 17th Science, that theory will be put to a test as the research community tries to cash in on this month’s Democratic capture of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, without sacrificing expected legislative gains under the current Republican leadership. Specific areas may benefit: relaxed constraints on embryonic stem cell research, and greater environmental stewardship. Both parties support a 2005 report from the National Academies on how to improve US competitiveness, although they disagree on which recommendations to emphasize and how quickly to proceed. Science lobbyists are concerned that appropriation bills containing hefty FY2007 increases for several science agencies, based on requests from President Bush, could be trimmed to meet another goal – reducing next year’s expected budget deficit of $335-billion. The most obvious changes next year will be a new lineup of committee chairs. (See

Speculation on impact of political shift on US higher ed Following the November 2006 US elections, on Wednesday, November 8, Jeffrey Brainard, Stephen Burd and Kelly Field of The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote an article speculating on how changes in political power in the House of Representatives might affect higher education in the country.  The reporters see college costs, producing more engineers and scientists, and stem-cell research as top items, along with decisions on how to complete the work of reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  Additional areas to watch include how the new Democratic majority will treat controversial academic earmarks, the budgets of agencies such as the National Institutes of Health which fund academic research, how student loans are run, especially the fate of the loan-industry which had donated heavily to Republican candidates, and pending provisions, written by Republicans, that would loosen restrictions on for-profit colleges.  (See

Environmentalists see greener Congress – The next US Congress will shift its environmental policymaking from reverse to forward, say environmentalists celebrating this month’s election results. According to an article in the November 17th Science by Erik Stokstad, two major reasons for that direction are the defeat of a powerful House member who was bent on weakening the Endangered Species Act, and the replacement of an influential Senate chair who called global warming a hoax. Although the mood of environmentalists is one of excitement and anticipation, it is tempered by the fact that Democrats are not united on these issues, have a slim majority, and face an Administration that adamantly opposes controls on emissions. (See

Universities increasing support for start-ups – Spurred by the success of such schools as Stanford and MIT which have made millions from licensing deals and from taking equity stakes in companies, universities around the US are increasingly focused on turning their research projects into profit making companies. According to an article by Rebecca Buckman in the November 27th Wall Street Journal, many universities are going beyond simply encouraging entrepreneurship among students and faculty and are setting up programs aimed at making technology-licensing deals happen. According to proponents of such efforts, these programs can make money for students, faculty and universities and create broader economic benefits in society. Such programs can also be a lure for hiring big-name faculty and attracting top-notch graduate students. (See

Congress cancels Advanced Technology Program – After 16 years and more than $2-billion in tax money, the Advanced Technology Program is closing up shop. The US Department of Commerce program helped companies develop promising but risky technologies. According to an article in the November 3rd Science by Eli Kintisch, the program was started at the initiative of Senator Fritz Hollings, who in the late 1980’s saw government subsidy as the primary driver behind Japan ’s ascendancy in the field of computer chips. Critics have argued that market forces, not a government agency, should determine the commercial fate of new technologies. Few question that ATP’s track-record of 768 funded projects contains some real winners. But despite several success stories, conservatives remain convinced that government has no business subsidizing commercial research and development. (See

Foreign enrollments in US show positive signs – The 2006 Open Doors report from the US Institute of International Education shows that the serious enrollment drops of international students in US universities have stopped, with the numbers even pointing to substantial increases in the coming few years.  The top three countries sending students to the US are India , China and South Korea , and account for over one third of the total.  Large research institutions continue to attract the most foreign students, with the University of Southern California leading the list.  Almost half of all foreign students are studying at the graduate level, with 15.7% in engineering, second only to the 17.9% in business and management programs.  The Open Doors report also gives data on US students studying abroad.  The numbers are up, and the destinations are more varied, but white women still dominate the ranks of American students abroad.  Even among US engineering students, who are predominantly male, many more women study abroad than men, reports Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed.  (See

Foreign enrollment in US graduate programs grows again – The Council of Graduate School’s report on international enrollments in US universities reveals that enrollment grew by 1% in 2006, after declining 3% the previous year. Engineering enjoyed the largest gain of matriculated international students, at 22%.  Insiders attribute increases to efforts made by the US government and by individual universities to counterbalance the perception that foreign students were unwelcome in the US after 9/11, reports Paul D. Thacker in Inside Higher Ed. (See

US sends delegation abroad to promote higher education – Margaret Spellings, US Secretary of Education, led a delegation which included 12 US college presidents on a trip to Japan, South Korea and China to promote US higher education and emphasize how welcome foreign students are, reported Paul Mooney and David McNeill in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Some common themes came out of dialogues with other academics and government officials, including lingering concerns about the US visa process, the high cost of US universities, and, in Japan , problems associated with married students’ gaining entry into the US .  Everyone agreed that more US students need to learn languages and study abroad.  (See


3 - Technology

Computing 2016 – Writing in the October 31st New York Times, Steve Lohr discusses what is next in developments in computing. He reports on a symposium held by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies. Talks focused on two broad themes: the impact of computing will go deeper into the sciences and spread more into the social sciences, and policy issues will loom large as technology becomes more powerful and more pervasive. It was noted that social networking research promises a rich trove for marketers and politicians, as well as sociologists, economists, anthropologists, psychologists, and educators. (See

NSF chief promotes strengthened cyberinfrastructure in US – The director of the US National Science Foundation, Arden L. Bement, spoke recently on “Cyberinfrastructure: The Second Revolution,” and encouraged American universities to invest in shared high-speed networking instruments which are needed for the country to maintain its strength in innovation.  Cyberinfrastructure is a concept which requires clarification, even among experts.  It includes methods of sharing scientific instrumentation over distances and improved simulation tools and graphics capabilities for making pictures of complex data.  Bement’s speech emphasized the need for greater collaboration across disciplinary and national borders in university research, reports Jeffrey R. Young in The Chronicle of Higher Education. (See


4 - Students, faculty, education

Gender similarities in math and science – Boys and girls have similar psychological traits and cognitive abilities, according to an article in the October 27th Science by Jane Shibley Hyde and Marcia Linn. Research shows that girls and boys are similar in performance and in ability to succeed in areas such as math and science. Thus, the authors conclude, a focus on factors other than gender is needed to help girls persist in mathematical and scientific career tracks. The phenomenon of gender similarities has implications for schooling. To neutralize traditional stereotypes about girls’ lack of ability and interest in mathematics and science, mentors and advisors need to increase emphasis on gender similarities rather than focusing on gender differences. (See

Schools slow in closing gaps between races – The sweeping education law signed by President Bush a year into his presidency set 2014 as the deadline by which schools were to close the test-score gap between minority and white students. But, according to an article in the November 20th New York Times by Sam Dillon, recent studies are reporting little progress toward that goal. Despite concerted efforts by teachers, the test-score gaps are so large that, on average, African-American and Hispanic students in high school can read and do arithmetic at only the average level of whites in junior high school. Research reports portray an educational landscape in which test-score gaps between black or Hispanic students and whites appear in kindergarten and worsen through 12 years of public education.  It is anticipated that the new Democratic leadership of House and Senate education committees will promote giving more resources to schools and to researching strategies to improve minority performance. (See

New book reveals rift between education and foundations Reconnecting Education and Foundations: Turning Good Intentions Into Education Capital – a recently published book – reports on a study by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and reveals how alienated the leaders of foundations and educational institutions feel from one another.  Both sides think the other is weak on accountability and not connected with society, reports Erin Strout in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Recommendations include both foundations and educational institutions being more open, less insular and accepting the advice of external reviewers. (See

The burden of plagiarism – A recent plagiarism scandal at Ohio University has raised all sorts of questions, including whether academic advisors should be punished for not detecting the cheating. Writing in the November 2006 ASEE Prism, Thomas Grose quotes one academic leader as saying “There’s a pattern here of faculty turning a blind eye to a lack of proper citation; that takes it out of the realm of forgiveness and into the realm of culpability”.  One lingering unknown is whether this problem is widespread, or whether the Ohio University mechanical engineering department is an isolated case. The student misunderstandings and broken mentoring system at Ohio University may indeed be common elsewhere. (See 

Innovative institution of science and technology part of urban plan Harrisburg University is a new public institution located in the state capital of Pennsylvania .  Harrisburg is attempting to revive its economy and revitalize its central core, and the new university is an integral part of the plan.  Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is dedicated to attracting local and regional students interested in engineering, science, mathematics and technology.  It opened in fall of 2005 with 113 students, and aims eventually to have an enrollment of 1500.  Small classes, no dorms, team teaching, and group projects are all part of the plans, along with close relationships with corporations for the design of the curriculum as well as job placement and internships.  Everything is geared to educating students for high-paying jobs in in-demand field, reports Elia Powers in Inside Higher Ed.  (See

US college students lacking in information literacy skills – The Educational Testing Service released a report on information literacy among college students, and according to Paul D. Thacker in Inside Higher Ed, the findings were disappointing.  ETS administered a test to over 6300 students at 63 universities (although the subjects were not randomly selected).  Many professors and librarians know that students rely too much on Google to do searches, and even then about 99% of them never go beyond the first page of search results.  Most of the ETS information literacy test scores provided evidence that students lack the ability to use technology to solve problems. (See

Florida chancellor promotes economic development through languages – The chancellor of the University of Florida , in an effort to support the Florida Prosperity Project, an economic development plan, is proposing to establish a Virtual Language Institute to train students in lesser-taught languages such as Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, Korean and Japanese.  The institute would involve the 11 public universities and 23 community colleges, reports Paul D. Thacker in Inside Higher Ed. If plans proceed, a pilot project would begin in fall of 2007, and financial aid packages would be available to permit students to benefit from cultural immersion through study abroad, as a complement to their language studies at the virtual institute. (See

Historically black colleges losing their appeal in US – The 103 historically black colleges and universities in the US are witnessing a steady erosion of their appeal to black students, reports Dionne Walker in a November 2 article which appeared in the on-line version of The Detroit News.  While the numbers of students enrolled in these institutions has slowly grown from 190,305 in 1976 to 230,000 in 2001, the percentage of black students selecting a black college or university has declined from 18.4% to 12.9% over the same period.  Increased competition from predominantly white universities and more integrated opportunities are also luring students away from the institutions which for so long have drawn black students by their family-like environment and campus traditions.  (See

Record numbers of science and engineering doctorates awarded in US in 2005 – A new report from the US National Science Foundation shows that the number of doctorate degrees awarded in science and engineering reached a new high in 2005, writes Doug Lederman in Inside Higher Ed.  In that year, 27,974 doctorates were awarded, including 21,570 in all science fields and 6,404 in all engineering fields.  Of the science and engineering awardees, 41.2% were foreign born, up from 36% in 2001.  62.2% went to men, 37.7% to women.  The engineering doctorates were awarded across sub disciplines, 1852 in electrical, 875 in chemical, 757 in civil, and 978 in mechanical.  In 2005 18.3% of all engineering doctorates were awarded to women, compared with 12.3% in 1996.  (See

Decision time draws near on acceptance of three year diplomas – Scott Jaschik, reporting for Inside Higher Education, attended a meeting in Washington , DC , organized by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, and hosted by the Australian Embassy.  The topic was the impact on graduate education in the US (as well as Canada and Australia ) of the Bologna Process in Europe .  By 2010, European higher education will have made a transition to awarding three year undergraduate degrees to new ranks of graduates who place a high value on mobility.  The result is increased pressure on US graduate programs to determine the acceptability of three years degrees as adequate preparation for masters and doctoral studies.  The problem is not entirely new: US institutions have been dealing with applications from graduates of three year program from the UK and from India for some time.  Just in the space of one year, from 2005 to 2006, the number of US institutions which categorically reject the three year degree has dropped from 29% to 18%, while trends have developed toward evaluating both individual degrees and individual candidates for adequacy.  What is missing in the three year European degrees that is present in most four year US degrees is general education, which causes some concern.  But the larger concern is how to tailor institutional policies on admission to graduate studies that are fair and non-racist, and that keep the door open to the bright students that US programs want to attract.  (See

Piecing it all together – The Learning Factory, a hands-on engineering program that has reached more than 10,000 students, could serve as a model for teaching engineering students around the globe. Writing in the November 2006 ASEE Prism, Lynne Shallcross describes the award winning Learning Factory program that began as a collaboration between several universities and their industry partners. The goal was to give undergraduate engineering students a first-hand experience in design, manufacturing and business. As implemented at Penn State , for example, all students in the College of Engineering can walk through the door and use a 3500 square foot facility which includes a design studio and machining and welding areas. Professor John Lamancusa, who originated that lab, refers to it as an “engineer’s sandbox”, where students “can come in, make a mess, and learn from it”. The team that originated the Learning Factory have been conducting workshops throughout the US and Latin America to share the concept. (See

Gender bias in academe – A stronger effort must be made to keep female faculty members in science and engineering, according to a note in the November 2006 ASEE Prism by Alice Merner Agogino.  A distinguished professor of engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, Agogino was co-author of a National Academy Press report titled “Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering”. She notes that several women have recently left academe due to what they perceived as a climate that was unfriendly to women. They felt that efforts at increasing faculty diversity were half-hearted, ineffectual, and not well-informed. The report cited provides strategies for action that can tap the potential of half the world’s population to contribute to engineering and its professoriate. (See


5 – Employment, competitiveness

A dragon in R&D – China ’s research labs may soon rival its powerhouse factories, and multinationals are flocking in for technology innovation. According to an article in the November 6th Business Week by Bruce Einhorn the Chinese government, led by President Hu Jintao, is exhorting companies there to transform the country by focusing on the lab as well as the factory. To stimulate innovation, Beijing has pledged to boost funding. In the late ‘90s, China spent less that 1% of gross domestic product on research and development. That figure is now 1.5%, but Hu wants it raised to 2.5% by 2020, meaning outlays of $115-billion a year. Companies both domestic and foreign are taking up the challenge. From Intel to Google to AstraZeneca to Dow Chemical, multinationals are stepping up R&D in China . (See

Ireland searches in US for skilled workers – With an influx of financial and information technology companies over the past 15 years, Ireland is finding it hard to recruit enough skilled employees. According to an article by Lauren Tara LaCapra in the October 31st Wall Street Journal, the situation is compounded by expansion of the construction sector as well as bustling export and tourism sectors. Not finding enough skilled workers willing to move to Ireland from other parts of Europe , the country is aggressively seeking them in the US . Estimates are that some 5000 US citizens will apply for Irish work permits this year, about three times the number of Irish who have applied to live and work in the US . (See

Associations urge rapid H-1B reform – Compete America , an organization drawing together corporations, universities, and trade associations, promotes US economic strength through education and job training, as well as immigration laws that remain secure and efficient while welcoming talent from abroad.  According to a November 16 press release, the American Council on Education and other organizations endorsed a letter from Compete American which asked the US Congress to revise the H-1B visa and employment based green card programs immediately.  Legislation currently under consideration in Congress would increase the H-1B visa cap to 115,000 annually, increase that cap automatically by 20% whenever that cap is met, and eliminate the limit on H-1B exemptions available to foreign graduates of US universities.  (See


6 – Journals

International Journal of Engineering Education – The current volume is a special issue on Knowledge Building in Materials Science, edited by Caroline Baillie and Linda Vanasupa. It contains eleven papers on educating materials engineers, the role of design in materials engineering, project based learning in materials science, and classroom methods for demonstrating materials concepts. A second part of the issue contains another twelve papers covering a variety of engineering education topics. (See

IEEE Transactions on Education – The November 2006 issue includes papers on a graduate software studio course, learning styles of computer programming students, project management using simulation models, and teaching operating systems in undergraduate courses. The 2006 index is also included, as are several calls for papers for upcoming conferences and special journal issues. (See 

Chemical Engineering Education – The Fall 2006 issue features several articles on graduate courses, including a paper on teaching entering graduate students the role of journal articles in research. Also included are eight article of general interest, including one on an international comparison of final-year design project curricula. This issue also contains a 5-year index, covering 2002 to 2006, and an annual Fall Graduate School Information Section. (See

European Journal of Engineering Education – The December issue includes eleven articles covering topics such as employability skill needs in engineering, introducing ethics using structured controversies, increasing gender diversity in engineering, avoiding student plagiarism, peer assessment processes in engineering classes, industry sponsored design projects, learning gain in courses, and remotely delivered lab courses. (See




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