[ASC-list] ASC-list Digest, Vol 67, Issue 3

Chris Forbes-Ewan forbes-ewan at tassie.net.au
Mon Jun 7 12:03:56 UTC 2010


Please excuse the lateness of this reply, and also that it goes on a
tangent.

I can't agree that "much of science is about proving theories". 

I believe that science is more about trying to disprove theories. If the
theory isn't disproved by a particular experiment, that theory is said to
have been 'confirmed'. In this sense 'confirmed' doesn't mean proven, only
that it wasn't shown to be incorrect in this instance.

A quote by the 18th century scientist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg is
relevant here: "In physics, instead of saying, I have explained such and
such a phenomenon, one might say, I have determined causes for it the
absurdity of which cannot be conclusively proved." 

This is the approach of Karl Popper. I don't know if Popper's philosophy of
science is still fully in favour, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

It also bothers me when people say "after all, it's only a theory" (e.g.
about Relativity Theory, Evolution or Continental Drift). 'Theory' doesn't
have the same meaning as 'hypothesis', which simply means a plausible
explanation. A theory started as a hypothesis, but has been confirmed so
often that is has become the orthodox scientific position (or the current
paradigm). 

Yet many scientists and, I suspect, science communicators are apparently
unaware of these basic concepts.

Chris Forbes-Ewan

19 Hedley St
Scottsdale  Tas  7260

-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of BRENDON CANT
Sent: Friday, 4 June 2010 11:44 AM
To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] ASC-list Digest, Vol 67, Issue 3

Julian is 'on the money', as usual and this is no surprise.
He comes out of 'the real world' i.e. having worked as a working journalist.
Many science communicators, as scientists first and
communicators/writers/journalists second lack a fundamental understanding of
how the media really works. Although much of science is about proving
theories, simply putting practical knowledge into practice is very often the
best  way to win the media war. And it is a war. Science news fights for
space and it's not always a fair fight. But, nonetheless, it's a fight and
every 'weapon' that can be employed should be.

Regards,
Brendon Cant

Brendon Cant & Associates
Public Relations & Marketing
Suite 5
4 Gugeri St
Claremont WA 6010
Tel 08 9384 1122
The information in this email is privileged and confidential and intended
for the use of the individual named.


-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au]On Behalf Of
asc-list-request at lists.asc.asn.au
Sent: Friday, 4 June 2010 8:17 AM
To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: ASC-list Digest, Vol 67, Issue 3


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Today's Topics:

   1. World class (Niall Byrne)
   2. Re: World class (longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au)
   3. Re: World class (Derek Elmes)
   4. Re: World class (Julian Cribb)
   5. Re: World class (Jenni Metcalfe)


----------------------------------------------------------------------

Message: 1
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 2010 13:17:52 +0000
From: Niall Byrne <niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>
To: "ASC list (asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au)" <asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
Subject: [ASC-list] World class
Message-ID:
	
<166E264E92C8CB4E95D73C52CDC47A960573FAEF at mbx021-e2-nj-2.exch021.domain.loc
al>

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

I'm interested in ASC members' views on the use of world-class and
breakthrough in media releases.

We try to avoid them.

I generally think that if the work is good it doesn't need the puff. The
journalists can add it in if they want.

Noel Turnbull made a similar comment in a piece on Crikey today.

So, for instance, the Victorian government can be obsessive about describing
things -- from our events program to buildings -- as world-class, but the
reality is that world-class things don't need to be promoted. It is
symptomatic of Britain's decline that the world-class cringe sometimes
surfaces there too, but one never hears New York or Paris talking about
world-class -- they just are.
Niall

________

Niall Byrne

Science in Public
26 Railway Street South, Altona Vic 3018

ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977
niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>

Full contact details at
www.scienceinpublic.com.au<http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/>


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Message: 2
Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2010 22:51:08 +0800
From: longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au
To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] World class
Message-ID: <20100603225108.bvlqtixog0088wow at webmail-2.ucs.uwa.edu.au>
Content-Type: text/plain;	charset=ISO-8859-1;	DelSp="Yes";
	format="flowed"

Hello Niall,

Yes, I agree. 'Cutting edge' is another one to avoid.

Cheers, Nancy

Assoc Prof Nancy Longnecker

Coordinator, Science Communication Program
Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences, M011
The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, WA   6009

ph: 61 8 6488 3926
email: nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au
skype: nancylongnecker

There is no point explaining everything in the universe if no one is
listening to you.    (UWA Sci Comm student, 2009)

CRICOS Provider No. 00126G


> I'm interested in ASC members' views on the use of world-class and
> breakthrough in media releases.
>
> We try to avoid them.
>
> I generally think that if the work is good it doesn't need the puff.
>  The journalists can add it in if they want.
>
> Noel Turnbull made a similar comment in a piece on Crikey today.
>
> So, for instance, the Victorian government can be obsessive about
> describing things -- from our events program to buildings -- as
> world-class, but the reality is that world-class things don't need
> to be promoted. It is symptomatic of Britain's decline that the
> world-class cringe sometimes surfaces there too, but one never hears
>  New York or Paris talking about world-class -- they just are.
> Niall
>
> ________
>
> Niall Byrne
>
> Science in Public
> 26 Railway Street South, Altona Vic 3018
>
> ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977
> niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>
>
> Full contact details at
> www.scienceinpublic.com.au<http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/>
>
>
>




------------------------------

Message: 3
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2010 08:51:19 +1000
From: Derek Elmes <Derek.Elmes at environment.nsw.gov.au>
To: "longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au" <longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au>,
	"asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au" <asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] World class
Message-ID:
	<490DB0A1FED3904E930E62687B76EBF116257BBAC6 at LIDCOEX02.dec.int>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Niall, Nancy et al

I recall Rob Morrison commenting on a similar issue several years ago.  When
posting to this list an advertisement for a science communication position
not long after, Rob's comments prompted me to invite people interested in
"communicating cutting edge breakthrough research" to go and work for a
mining equipment organisation.

I suppose the question I'd add is do we know what audiences (as opposed to
communication professionals) think of such words (whether these ones or ones
in other areas of communication e.g. "hero" sports people)? Are there any
studies about audience reaction to there use or over-use?

Cheers

Derek


Derek Elmes
Scientific Services Division
Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW)


-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of
longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au
Sent: Friday, 4 June 2010 12:51 AM
To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] World class

Hello Niall,

Yes, I agree. 'Cutting edge' is another one to avoid.

Cheers, Nancy

Assoc Prof Nancy Longnecker

Coordinator, Science Communication Program
Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences, M011
The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, WA   6009

ph: 61 8 6488 3926
email: nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au
skype: nancylongnecker

There is no point explaining everything in the universe if no one is
listening to you.    (UWA Sci Comm student, 2009)

CRICOS Provider No. 00126G


> I'm interested in ASC members' views on the use of world-class and
> breakthrough in media releases.
>
> We try to avoid them.
>
> I generally think that if the work is good it doesn't need the puff.
>  The journalists can add it in if they want.
>
> Noel Turnbull made a similar comment in a piece on Crikey today.
>
> So, for instance, the Victorian government can be obsessive about
> describing things -- from our events program to buildings -- as
> world-class, but the reality is that world-class things don't need
> to be promoted. It is symptomatic of Britain's decline that the
> world-class cringe sometimes surfaces there too, but one never hears
>  New York or Paris talking about world-class -- they just are.
> Niall
>
> ________
>
> Niall Byrne
>
> Science in Public
> 26 Railway Street South, Altona Vic 3018
>
> ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977
> niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>
>
> Full contact details at
> www.scienceinpublic.com.au<http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/>
>
>
>


_______________________________________________
ASC-list mailing list
list at asc.asn.au
http://www.asc.asn.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=97&Itemid=11
5
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------
This email is intended for the addressee(s) named and may contain
confidential and/or privileged information.
If you are not the intended recipient, please notify the sender and then
delete it immediately.
Any views expressed in this email are those of the individual sender except
where the sender expressly and with authority states them to be the views of
the Department of Environment, Climate Change & Water NSW.



------------------------------

Message: 4
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2010 09:45:43 +1000
From: "Julian Cribb" <jcribb at work.netspeed.com.au>
To: "'Derek Elmes'" <Derek.Elmes at environment.nsw.gov.au>,
	<longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au>, <asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] World class
Message-ID: <003901cb0376$e2c18a30$a8449e90$@netspeed.com.au>
Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="iso-8859-1"

An interesting debate, but one that seems to lack understanding of what
really happens in the media.

The reason journalists use cliches like 'breakthrough' 'world-first' and
'cutting edge' etc is not so much for the benefit of the external audience,
as for the information of the (non-scientific) editors who make up the news
bench in a media organisation and who decide what runs and what doesn't.

On any given day these editors scan and process several hundred potential
stories from journalists, correspondents, contributors, wire services and
media releases. From this several hundred they will select maybe 10-30 for
the news bulletin or news pages of the paper. The remaining 80-90 per cent
of stories are killed.

A science story has a number of problems from a news editor's perspective.
First, the media isn't terribly interested in science per se, but more in
its impact on society and on their local audience in particular. So the
science story starts behind the eightball, in competition with a politics,
economics, crime, scandal, business or sport story. It has to push its way
up the newslist somehow.

Second, the science wasn't done 'today' - a primary requirement of 24-hour
news media - but over the last few years. It may possibly have been
published today, but that is not a very strong news angle. Media likes its
news to be 'red hot' if possible. So in a sense the science story is already
ageing news and there is no particular argument to run it today as opposed
to any other day. And the newslist is already full.

Third, if you are selling a story, say on a new genetic approach to cancer
therapy, the editors are likely to say "Oh I'm sure I've seen something like
this in the news before" and kill your story just to be safe, even though it
may be fresh as a daisy newswise. They have not appreciated the distinction
between the genes in your story and the genes in a hundred other stories
like it. Frustrated science journalists often resort to terms like
"world-first" to get their editors to understand that this IS a genuine news
story - not old hat and headed for the spike.

Fourth, the media is almost invariably local in its focus, and a term like
'world first' or 'cutting edge' is a signal to its editors that local
scientists have done something good.  Local heroes always get more coverage
than those from interstate or overseas - whether they are scientists or
sportspeople.

A science story has to work very hard to get into the top ten percent of
publishable/broadcastable news. Most experienced science journalists will
admit that more than half their efforts usually end on the spike. That was
certainly the case when I was at The Australian, and I know from my
colleagues on other dailies they suffered the same fate.

So while it is all very well to bewail the use of clich?s in journalism -
and I do not like them and try constantly to avoid them personally - there
needs to be an appreciation among science communicators about what a science
story is really up against when it enters the news mill, and why a science
journalist might resort to colourful language to give it more impetus with
the editors who have the final say.

To insist on the elimination of such clich?s will probably only result in
fewer science stories being published, as a scientifically-illiterate
editorial stratum will not understand they are in fact about genuine,
world-first, breakthrough, cutting-edge science - and send them to the
growing scrap-pile of unpublished news.

While I applaud the elimination of self-praise and hype from institutional
media releases, I defend the right of both science journalists and
communicators to use every verbal device they can to disseminate human
knowledge more widely via the media, without being too heavily criticised by
their peers for doing so.

If this doesn't start an argument in ASC, nothing will...


Julian Cribb FTSE
Julian Cribb & Associates
ph +61 (0)2 6242 8770 or 0418 639 245
http://www.sciencealert.com.au/jca.html
www.scinews.com.au


-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Derek Elmes
Sent: Friday, 4 June 2010 8:51 AM
To: longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au; asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] World class

Niall, Nancy et al

I recall Rob Morrison commenting on a similar issue several years ago.  When
posting to this list an advertisement for a science communication position
not long after, Rob's comments prompted me to invite people interested in
"communicating cutting edge breakthrough research" to go and work for a
mining equipment organisation.

I suppose the question I'd add is do we know what audiences (as opposed to
communication professionals) think of such words (whether these ones or ones
in other areas of communication e.g. "hero" sports people)? Are there any
studies about audience reaction to there use or over-use?

Cheers

Derek


Derek Elmes
Scientific Services Division
Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW)


-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of
longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au
Sent: Friday, 4 June 2010 12:51 AM
To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] World class

Hello Niall,

Yes, I agree. 'Cutting edge' is another one to avoid.

Cheers, Nancy

Assoc Prof Nancy Longnecker

Coordinator, Science Communication Program
Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences, M011
The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, WA   6009

ph: 61 8 6488 3926
email: nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au
skype: nancylongnecker

There is no point explaining everything in the universe if no one is
listening to you.    (UWA Sci Comm student, 2009)

CRICOS Provider No. 00126G


> I'm interested in ASC members' views on the use of world-class and
> breakthrough in media releases.
>
> We try to avoid them.
>
> I generally think that if the work is good it doesn't need the puff.
>  The journalists can add it in if they want.
>
> Noel Turnbull made a similar comment in a piece on Crikey today.
>
> So, for instance, the Victorian government can be obsessive about
> describing things -- from our events program to buildings -- as
> world-class, but the reality is that world-class things don't need
> to be promoted. It is symptomatic of Britain's decline that the
> world-class cringe sometimes surfaces there too, but one never hears
>  New York or Paris talking about world-class -- they just are.
> Niall
>
> ________
>
> Niall Byrne
>
> Science in Public
> 26 Railway Street South, Altona Vic 3018
>
> ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977
> niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>
>
> Full contact details at
> www.scienceinpublic.com.au<http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/>
>
>
>


_______________________________________________
ASC-list mailing list
list at asc.asn.au
http://www.asc.asn.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=97&Itemid=11
5
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------
This email is intended for the addressee(s) named and may contain
confidential and/or privileged information.
If you are not the intended recipient, please notify the sender and then
delete it immediately.
Any views expressed in this email are those of the individual sender except
where the sender expressly and with authority states them to be the views of
the Department of Environment, Climate Change & Water NSW.

_______________________________________________
ASC-list mailing list
list at asc.asn.au
http://www.asc.asn.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=97&Itemid=11
5




------------------------------

Message: 5
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2010 10:17:12 +1000
From: "Jenni Metcalfe" <jenni at econnect.com.au>
To: <asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] World class
Message-ID: <004201cb037b$47d08620$d7719260$@com.au>
Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="iso-8859-1"

I'd like to back up Julian's comments below (whilst still agreeing to some
extent with the others).

Certainly journalists who participate in the media skills workshops we run
for scientists around the country (and sometimes internationally) will often
ask our participants if it's a breakthrough, world first, Australian-first,
or cutting edge. And this has not changed over the past 18 years of running
these workshops. General rather than science journalists ask these
questions.

However, if it is genuinely a world or Australian first - why not celebrate
this?

I am not into hype or spin; it does have to be the truth. Scientists, in my
experience, are very conservative about whether their research is
"world-first" and so unless they are very sure this is true and happy for
this term to be used, I won't use it in our releases.

With all media publicity, I pitch a story to a specific media audience based
on its RELEVANCE (the "so what?") to them.

cheers

Jenni Metcalfe
Director Econnect Communication
PO Box 734
South Brisbane Q 4101
Australia
www.econnect.com.au
jenni at econnect.com.au
phone: + 61 7 3846 7111, +0408 551 866
skype:  jenni.metcalfe

-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Julian Cribb
Sent: Friday, 4 June 2010 9:46 AM
To: 'Derek Elmes'; longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au; asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] World class

An interesting debate, but one that seems to lack understanding of what
really happens in the media.

The reason journalists use cliches like 'breakthrough' 'world-first' and
'cutting edge' etc is not so much for the benefit of the external audience,
as for the information of the (non-scientific) editors who make up the news
bench in a media organisation and who decide what runs and what doesn't.

On any given day these editors scan and process several hundred potential
stories from journalists, correspondents, contributors, wire services and
media releases. From this several hundred they will select maybe 10-30 for
the news bulletin or news pages of the paper. The remaining 80-90 per cent
of stories are killed.

A science story has a number of problems from a news editor's perspective.
First, the media isn't terribly interested in science per se, but more in
its impact on society and on their local audience in particular. So the
science story starts behind the eightball, in competition with a politics,
economics, crime, scandal, business or sport story. It has to push its way
up the newslist somehow.

Second, the science wasn't done 'today' - a primary requirement of 24-hour
news media - but over the last few years. It may possibly have been
published today, but that is not a very strong news angle. Media likes its
news to be 'red hot' if possible. So in a sense the science story is already
ageing news and there is no particular argument to run it today as opposed
to any other day. And the newslist is already full.

Third, if you are selling a story, say on a new genetic approach to cancer
therapy, the editors are likely to say "Oh I'm sure I've seen something like
this in the news before" and kill your story just to be safe, even though it
may be fresh as a daisy newswise. They have not appreciated the distinction
between the genes in your story and the genes in a hundred other stories
like it. Frustrated science journalists often resort to terms like
"world-first" to get their editors to understand that this IS a genuine news
story - not old hat and headed for the spike.

Fourth, the media is almost invariably local in its focus, and a term like
'world first' or 'cutting edge' is a signal to its editors that local
scientists have done something good.  Local heroes always get more coverage
than those from interstate or overseas - whether they are scientists or
sportspeople.

A science story has to work very hard to get into the top ten percent of
publishable/broadcastable news. Most experienced science journalists will
admit that more than half their efforts usually end on the spike. That was
certainly the case when I was at The Australian, and I know from my
colleagues on other dailies they suffered the same fate.

So while it is all very well to bewail the use of clich?s in journalism -
and I do not like them and try constantly to avoid them personally - there
needs to be an appreciation among science communicators about what a science
story is really up against when it enters the news mill, and why a science
journalist might resort to colourful language to give it more impetus with
the editors who have the final say.

To insist on the elimination of such clich?s will probably only result in
fewer science stories being published, as a scientifically-illiterate
editorial stratum will not understand they are in fact about genuine,
world-first, breakthrough, cutting-edge science - and send them to the
growing scrap-pile of unpublished news.

While I applaud the elimination of self-praise and hype from institutional
media releases, I defend the right of both science journalists and
communicators to use every verbal device they can to disseminate human
knowledge more widely via the media, without being too heavily criticised by
their peers for doing so.

If this doesn't start an argument in ASC, nothing will...


Julian Cribb FTSE
Julian Cribb & Associates
ph +61 (0)2 6242 8770 or 0418 639 245
http://www.sciencealert.com.au/jca.html
www.scinews.com.au


-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Derek Elmes
Sent: Friday, 4 June 2010 8:51 AM
To: longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au; asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] World class

Niall, Nancy et al

I recall Rob Morrison commenting on a similar issue several years ago.  When
posting to this list an advertisement for a science communication position
not long after, Rob's comments prompted me to invite people interested in
"communicating cutting edge breakthrough research" to go and work for a
mining equipment organisation.

I suppose the question I'd add is do we know what audiences (as opposed to
communication professionals) think of such words (whether these ones or ones
in other areas of communication e.g. "hero" sports people)? Are there any
studies about audience reaction to there use or over-use?

Cheers

Derek


Derek Elmes
Scientific Services Division
Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW)


-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of
longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au
Sent: Friday, 4 June 2010 12:51 AM
To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] World class

Hello Niall,

Yes, I agree. 'Cutting edge' is another one to avoid.

Cheers, Nancy

Assoc Prof Nancy Longnecker

Coordinator, Science Communication Program
Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences, M011
The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, WA   6009

ph: 61 8 6488 3926
email: nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au
skype: nancylongnecker

There is no point explaining everything in the universe if no one is
listening to you.    (UWA Sci Comm student, 2009)

CRICOS Provider No. 00126G


> I'm interested in ASC members' views on the use of world-class and
> breakthrough in media releases.
>
> We try to avoid them.
>
> I generally think that if the work is good it doesn't need the puff.
>  The journalists can add it in if they want.
>
> Noel Turnbull made a similar comment in a piece on Crikey today.
>
> So, for instance, the Victorian government can be obsessive about
> describing things -- from our events program to buildings -- as
> world-class, but the reality is that world-class things don't need
> to be promoted. It is symptomatic of Britain's decline that the
> world-class cringe sometimes surfaces there too, but one never hears
>  New York or Paris talking about world-class -- they just are.
> Niall
>
> ________
>
> Niall Byrne
>
> Science in Public
> 26 Railway Street South, Altona Vic 3018
>
> ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977
> niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>
>
> Full contact details at
> www.scienceinpublic.com.au<http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/>
>
>
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