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As always, look into the ranking of the schools you are interested in within their disciplines.
For example:
NC State is a top-ranked Ag-Econ school with several Austrians - Austrian sympathizers about.
With in the Ag - Econ school is EC Pasour, and across the hall Rick Stroup as adjunct.
Cordato is also adjunct. And Margolis and Newmark are sympathetic.
(I always try to plug my Alma Mater)
If your gig is environmental econ or ag, and you are Austrian-ish, go NCSU.

Nathanael, where can you find info on schools' rank among their specialities? Or even ranks in general?

Let me just add one thing from the hiring side of the desk: we would much rather hire the BEST student from a somewhat lower-ranked school than a middling one from a top school. One of the best things about my time at GMU was that it provided me with opportunities to teach, publish, go to conferences, and generally "do" the profession before I hit the job market. That matters to hiring committees.

Dr. Boettke, what rankings of economics graduate programs are you referring to? I know there are rankings on econphd, but do you have another source that you trust?


I said "GMU by conventional rankings (JEL, SEJ, etc.) in the 40s ranks higher than Clemson, Florida State, Auburn, WVU, etc." --- so look at the JEL survey, the SEJ paper on top programs in the South, the National Research Council as discussed by Randy Holcombe's EJW article on citation practices, etc.

I do not "trust" the rankings nor the rankings from the guy from UBC. Both were done by graduate students, and both tended to overstate the ranking of the school they attended and/or got their first job at --- none of which were by any other measure all that highly rated.

The real issue is the following --- we can agree on the top 10, there are about 30 schools that are viable candidates for the top 20, and after that the difference between being ranked #35 and #67 is neglible for professional development. The difference between being ranked #35 or #15 is huge, and the difference between being ranked #15 and #2 is almost professionally insurmountable.

So my advice, don't settle for online rankings but instead look up the published studies on the rankings of departments.

Here is one example:

Therese C. Grijalva and Cliffor Nowell, "A Guide to Graduate Study in Economics: Ranking Economics Departments by Fields of Expertise," Southern Econ. Journal, April 2008, Vol. 74, No. 4, pp. 971-996.

According to this study, GMU Econ now ranks 41 OVERALL among programs in the U.S. GMU is just behind #40 UNC-Chapel Hill, and above highly regarded programs such as Univ. of Washington (45), Texas A&M (49), Florida State (52), GW (54), U. Pittsburgh (59), Washington University (69), Emory (71), UC-Irvine (72) and VA Tech (75), and West Virginia (104).

When ranked by field (as defined by the classification of the JEL) GMU Econ ranks

- 3rd in Methodology and History of Economic Thought
- 9th in General Economics and Teaching
- 11th in Law and Economics
- 25th in Microeconomics
- 25th in Public Economics
- 39th in Financial Economics [This surprises me, pleasantly.]
- 40th in Mathematical and Quantitative Methods [Another pleasant surprise.]
- 43rd in Economic Systems
- 47th in Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics
- 52nd in Economic History [pre-Nye!]
- 55th in Labor and Demographic Economics
- 57th in Industrial Organization
- 66th in Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth [a disappointing ranking]
- 79th in Macroeconomics and monetary policy [no surprise here, but still disappointing]
- 79th in Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics
- 92nd in Health, Education, and Welfare
- 99th in International Economics

The key independent variable in this study is faculty publications in scholarly journals (1985-2004), weighted for quality.

I think your defense of GMU Econ is compelling. I just wish you didn't use Rutgers as a example. I guess you're angry over the Bob Mulcahy firing. As a 83 RU Nwk grad. I attended a Hayek lecture there and have been a fan since. I didn't get a degree in Economics but took 15 credits and have been thankful that I did.


I actually think the world of Rutgers as a university, but while the economics department there claims to be "mainstream" and it is, it is not an elite "mainstream" school. And what matters for the issues Joe is talking about is not being "mainstream" in course work, but being "elite" as conventionally ranked. It is a practical judgement of what impact for the career path of graduate students.


I'm a little disappointed with our economic systems ranking.

The discussion about rankings is very interesting. Prof. Boettke has a very interesting and useful point here, in my opinion.

On the economic systems ranking --- a few things to point out. First, at one time GMU had a great duo in that field -- Don Lavoie and Mike Alexeev. Don moved out of the department in the early 1990s and Mike left for a chaired professorsip at Indiana University. Second, the field in general sort of imploded after the collapse of communism. At Stanford when I was there in 1992-1993 there was a controversy in the economics department because their comparative system expert (John Litwack), who was an outstanding economist, was encouraged to leave as a junior faculty because his field didn't exist anymore. Comparative systems morphed into transition studies, which morphed into development studies. This is what I did as well as a scholar. Third, following Don Lavoie's lead I am more of a book oriented scholar than journal oriented. I have tried to change that since coming to GMU, mainly to try to (a) publish my findings in general journals to maximize readership and impact, and (b) provide an example to the graduate students. But this move also coincided with my shift from systems to transition to development, and to be honest also a shift from field studies and travel to more theoretical exercises. So, I will take responsibility for the relatively lower ranking of our department in comparative systems. Shift in focus, shift in approach, and inability to make my points in an articulate enough way to flood either the top field journals or top general journals. Sorry about that --- perhaps if things work out, you can start a revival of the field in our department. That would be most welcomed.

That would be most welcomed, indeed. If not, I might end up doing a Hazlitt and going "untrained". I was going to add that, although on the one hand it is a disappointment to see the low ranking, on the other hand it is potentially quite a positive thing. That means that someone else is actually doing work in this field.

As you know, I think it is ridiculous that comparative economic systems has been dropped from curricula just because the Soviet Union fell - as if there are not still different ways (theoretically) to organize the economy, and as if different countries are not still (in practice) organized differently. In my opinion it is as important as ever to perform comparative institutional analysis, for theory and for practice.

The framework of comparative economic systems is a key way to do this. Jumping right to "development" without first considering what economic systems, built with what institutions, will allow the economy to develop, is like jumping to macro without micro-foundations. Comparative economic systems is the right framework, because it asks the right questions. It is also an incredibly rich area because it not only has this correct framework, but it also has such a rich economic history, in particular because of the long experiment in the Soviet Union.

Of course, the schools above us are probably only doing transition, and not actual comparative systems or socialism study, with the exception of Paul Gregory at U of H. Since U of H, with Paul Gregory, ranked lower than us, and Harvard ranked top, I am going to assume that this is driving the rankings. This is a shame.

BTW, GMU just this past fall was ranked #1 by US News and World Report as the up and coming university in America. So even on that standard (overall quality of the institution), the world of Austrians and libertarians need to update. GMU is not the big university equivalent of Hillsdale and Grove City College (two schools by the way that I love, but our outside of the mainstream of America academic life).

So lets get real --- GMU has had Nobel Prizes (2), Pulitzer Prize winners, etc. on its faculty; its basketball team went to the final four and regularly plays on ESPN (watch next Saturday night) and is featured on EA Sports College Hoops video game; the Law School has been rated the fastest advancing law school in the US; the School of Public Policy is internationally recognized; and we are the largest university in the state of Virginia with 35,000 students.

GMU is NOT what it was 25 years ago --- when Joe had the opportunity to be a faculty member at GMU but turned it down. GMU is not what it was 25 years ago, when I decided to go to graduate school there rather than pursue graduate studies at NYU, Auburn, or Rutgers (the other schools I was considering, or the law schools that I was considering). A neighbor to my in-laws actually told them when I was going to get my PhD at GMU, "why would he do that, that is like getting a PhD from Montclair State." At the time, that was accurate. But within 2 years of that statement, I was watching my professor earn the Nobel Prize, and within 2 years of that, I received my PhD for a dissertation on the failure of socialism from an Austrian perspective. I am thankful everyday that I attended Grove City College and then George Mason University for my formal education. What I learned in those schools has enabled me to hold faculty positions at NYU (8 years), Stanford's Hoover Institution (1 year and 1 summer visit), LSE (2 visiting stints), etc. And most importantly, my returning to GMU has enabled me to work with great students who share my intellectual passions and desire to track truth, and communicate the economic way of thinking to students.

I have no idea where I would be if I had pursued a different path, but it wouldn't be here and I wouldn't have enjoyed my life as a scholar/teacher as much. As I once told George Selgin when I was a student --- "George, what is great about GMU is that the faculty let us go out on a limb to pursue what we want to pursue." George responded -- "Yea, go out on a limb and hang yourself." But if you look at my cohort (such as Steve Horwitz) I don't see any corpses hung on the nut trees of Austro/libertarianism. But instead, well respected and successful academics who write about Austrian economics and classical liberalism boldly and in a professionally responsible way.

So I guess the real source of information should be the products of the program and what they have accomplished. Let me just point you, to the link to my former students page as one indication.

Comparative economic systems was one of my favorite MS classes! And it was taught by a self-described "socialist" who had us read Hayek and von Mises but zero Marx et al. Go figure!

My biggest issue is wondering how difficult it is to get into a 'first tier' Ph.D program coming from a 'second tier' undergraduate program. So, for example, I'm currently enrolled at Penn State University. I currently have obtained an extremely high GPA and as a result am in the honors program at my school. Steve said that from a hiring perspective you would want the best from a 'second tier' school than middle from a 'first tier' school. But, do graduate programs feel the same way?

Is being at the top of a state university enough to allow me to compete with the middle (or the top) of the 'first tier' school in applying to graduate schools? If not, how can I make myself compete with those individuals?


In my experience it will turn on letters of recommendation from the best professors in your department. If you have a 4.0 GPA, and you get near or perfect GRE's on the quantitative section, then it is all about the letters you will receive and who those professors know at the top tier places.

Good luck.


Out of curiosity, the one getting the 2-2 and $100K: Austrian, Pub C, Experimental, or other?

Totally with you that it makes FAR more sense to go to a school like GMU, that's best at what it does, than some middling boring place. Unless you're going to get a PhD at Harvard, Stanford, Chicago or one of the top tier, take GMU instead.


Student is Austrian/public choice!!! And will have multiple offers to chose between in this financial situation.


Good show in a poor year -- it's totally a buyers market (we're hiring, great year for it). Mildly curious who the supervisor was.

Supervisor = Peter Leeson, I am the other econ faculty member of the committee.

We still have students that are in the process of interviewing and weighing options, so the initial job market is not over yet.

What are you guys looking for?

I know Pete's views on cost-of-living, but the impressive thing is the 2-2 load, which suggests strong research support for tenure-track faculty (something that basically goes away during a state budget crisis at regional universities like mine). $100K goes a lot further in Morgantown, WV (for example) than it does in the major coastal cities.

Congrats to this anonymous student on the market!

How's the Kiwi economy doing, Eric?

Once you're further down the rankings, what field you plan on doing matters lots more. For example, while it's true that on average there's not a ton of perceived difference between PSU, OSU, GMU, WVU, etc, if you want to be a micro theory person, PSU would be the easy choice, and if you wanted to be an econometrics person, OSU would make sense, while a law & econ person would easily choose GMU.

Agree with Jon --- you don't go to GMU and focus on macroeconomics and expect to do well. You have to consider both field expertise/reputation of the faculty (the real expertise/reputation not the one they sell you on) and the general reputation of that field in the profession. There are niche fields, and you simply will not have the market options others would have if you do that sort of work.
One of the comments on Joe's original post said something about being smart and right being discounted in academic economics. NOTHING could be farther from the truth --- that is the comment from a delusional soul. Being right and correct is the fastest way to success in academics as well as in life in general. But unfortunately sometimes in academics we value cleverness too much. This is especially true when a discussion is technique centered.

But that gets us on a different path than what Jon wisely pointed out --- field choice. Some fields don't get research jobs (e.g., history of thought), other fields hire only few people (e.g., comparative), and other fields are widely popular (e.g., industrial organization/public/money-macro).

Since GMU tends to have field expertise/reputation in history of thought and methodology (Austrian), public choice and political economy, and experimental economics/statistical design, and law and economics --- the students who write in these areas do the "best", but that "best" might be professionally constrained unless they overcome the barrier through sheer force of publication and personality.

In addition to my advice to talented students to go to the best school that will pay your full way that you can get admitted to, I also tell them that "GMU is the best weird place to study economics." By that I mean, not heterodox, but small market fields such as history of ideas, public choice and constitutional political economy, philosophy and economics, anthropology-sociology and economics, and experimental/behavioral economics. Now add to that list another important, but small market field --- economic history with John Nye joining our ranks (and also new institutionalism). By all means come to GMU to study these fields, but don't come here to study standard macroeconomics --- we teach it, but we don't believe it!


Something that seems missing from this conversation is the use of a degree outside of academia....including in think tanks, policy applications, and the private market.

If you go to GMU, you better get a teaching job because you're completely uncompetitive in model building or econometrics.

True, the best guy from GMU is better than the worst MIT Ph.D. for a teaching position. But an MIT undergrad is more qualified for a private sector job than a Mason Ph.d.

There's more to the world (and the fight for free markets) than publishing History of Thought papers and sitting around a table discussing what Kirzner really though in such and such paragraph.

Knowing what you want to do with your degree will also tell you where to go to get it. If you don't think this out first, you could find yourself in a tough spot.

Vedran, I agree with your last paragraph, but I'm not sure I agree that Mason can't be good for policy jobs. Perhaps the musing on what Mises and Kirzner meant is unhelpful, but the work and connections through Mercatus certainly are!

I work in the CDA at Heritage and we have quite a few connections here to Mason, actually. My boss knows and likes Pete B as well and keeps trying to get me to drag him down here. Granted, we are all Austrians on this floor of Heritage, but isn't that the point: good economic theory is critical to good thinking, and to the extent that there are policy institutes that recognize good economic thought and the power of the markets, Mason is actually excellent for policy careers.

Vedran, so do you think that the private sector values knowledge of general equilibrium theory, econometrics and game theory?

What I'm saying is that in the reality of D.C, people want models. Numbers are very useful in debates. Logic is great, but an economist who can't build a model is not very useful. A strictly Austrian economist is about as good in D.C. as a conservative Ph.D. in political science. I mean it's good, but anyone with math skills has the upper hand by far.

Good economic thinking and logic does not win the day usually, it's a tool, but not the whole arsenal. (The Left does just fine without logic in case you haven't noticed.) If you can't utilize all the weapons available to an economist, you're fighting with one hand tied behind your back. Arguing whether using math is right or wrong is pointless. You have to use it in this environment. If you can't, then you're ill equipped for the fight.

Are Austrians good for writing blog posts and articles for daily readers? Sure, they're very well fitted for that. Are they fitted for a drag down D.C. battle on the Hill only armed with


In the private sector, you most certainly get hired for a good knowledge of statistics. Don't take my word for it, just check

The level of economics and statistics used by think tanks is supplied by GMU though. Its not rocket science ;)

Why economics build on verbal logic is not useful? So do you mean, it is better to know math econ to work for the government, if you mean goverment when you said DC. Or do you mean think tanks? Well, I don't think that it makes a large difference if you has studied mathematical economics for 2 or 4 years.

As liberty said, think thanks doesn't need mathematicians that like to play with economic models. The level of math that the MIT supplies is only useful for the academy (to impress other math economists on the elegance of your theorems).

And statistics is not some very advanced stuff anyway.


I respectfully disagree on both fronts. First, in the policy world students from GMU have done just fine -- look at Dan Mitchell, who I linked to today. But also look at organizations such as IEA in the UK and CATO in the US and how they have often changed the terms of the debate. Statistical analysis is usually within a given set of terms, you need something more (a different set of eyeglasses) to change the terms of the debate.
Second, in the private sector an analysis of money and capital can be extremely valuable; just as an analysis of industry structure, strategy and entrepreneurship can be extremely valuable. One of my students at NYU in the mid-1990s, who came to NYU because the investment guru James Grant recommended that he study Austrian economics. After getting his PhD and weighing options (he has a teaching job at a very good liberal arts college) decided to go private sector for 3 times the academic salary. A recent GMU grad Steve Daley went private sector, and he is doing not just good, but awesome.

So again, I think we need to discuss these things critically, but informed by the data available to us. You make a lot of sweeping statements --- what evidence do we have to trust those statements.


Pete: awesome that Leeson's been able to place a student like that. I'd have been nervous about having a relatively junior faculty member as Chair, but sounds like it's turned out fine. Great for Pete L.!

We're hiring for a macro (slim chance 2 macro) and 2 finance. The finance department's moved over to merge with Econ (previously over with accounting) so we're working to build it up; we've always been a bit light in macro. We're getting some pretty decent candidates coming through so far. We're offering our standard 1-1 (or 0/2 or 2/0) load that goes up to 1-2 (or 2-1 or 0-3 or 3-0). Of course, we can't touch $100K US, but all our cost of living's in $NZ anyway.

Miller: Yup, the 2-2's pretty good. I hope the guy's checked to make sure that it's not one of those "Yeah, it starts 2-2 and stays 2-2 conditional on research output (and also really really conditional on the department not having pressing teaching needs but there are pressing needs every year but we won't tell you that while we're recruiting.)" I've heard nasty rumours on that front about some of the Cal State schools. Always worth checking what proportion of faculty gets to stay on the 2-2 load, and the research records of the folks who didn't.

Kiwi economy's in recession, like everywhere else. Unemployment's up to 4.6% and might go as high as 7-8% before it's all over. Dollar's dropped from about $0.78 to $0.51, which hurts when you're travelling back to the States. But, it'll come back up again. On the good side, University finances seem countercyclical if anything as lots of funding follows students, no problems with our students getting loans. So student numbers go up in the downturn and so do our budgets.


Pete L has an excellent record of working with students. Claudia Williamson was his PhD student and she did outstanding on the market last year, and even had some quality interviews this year. She is a very interesting and talented rising political economist -- watch out for her work.

So while I agree with your general advice about watching out for junior faculty, sometimes junior people leap over the conventional wisdom and the job of the old guys is simply get out of the way. That is more or less how I feel about Pete and Chris. As Larry White once said, "I am a pre-Selginian free banker" -- sort of how I feel about Pete and Chris.

The good news is that both have been able to move beyond the market oriented network and really develop professional reputations on their own. Pete will be a visiting professor at the University Chicago economics department all of next year --- Chris just received a major grant to continue his work on post-war reconstruction.

My other students are very successful as well, Ben Powell is helping to establish a new PhD program in Boston, Ed Stringham is at Trinity College in Hartford, CT (an elite liberal arts college), etc., etc.

I simply deny that there is a glass ceiling either methodologically or ideologically in the profession, you just have to work really hard to climb the ladder and our methodology and ideology makes that climb that much harder, but not impossible. I think the single most counter-productive thing for classical liberals is to claim that (a) there is discrimination, and (b) strategize on the basis of that belief. It leads to two unproductive moves --- stealthism or isolationism. We should never hide who we are so I disagree 110% with stealthism, and we should never disengage in the mainstream debate so I disagree 110% with isolationism. Instead, we should demand to be at the conversational table in our profession, write clearly and boldly, and advance the argument through tracking truth.

I think the economists who do that the best, get rewarded the most --- even when their opinions are discounted as "crazy" compared to more measured statements by others.


Having attended GMU, I would say the level statistics and mathematics is sub par. It doesn't take a lot of math but GMU is still below that amount!


Ok, so you've placed a couple of people. That doesn't prove that a GMU graduate is better suited at policy than someone who knows statistics inside out.

I'd take someone like JD Foster at Heritage who can build models but who is not an Austrian any day over just about any Austrian economist for a policy think tank.

For an educational group like Mises Institute, FEE, or certain roles in CATO. I would take an Austrian over JD.

Naming a student or two that got into the private market isn't proof of your point. I didn't say that no one can get into the private market or policy. I said they are not as well suited as those with high degrees of math skills. To this end, you have not rebutted my point.

Should I name some graduate from MIT working in D.C. and then says "AHA! I'm right!"

Extrapolating everything from a few students that you've had seems as sweeping of a statement if not more so than mine

"I'd take someone like JD Foster at Heritage who can build models but who is not an Austrian any day over just about any Austrian economist for a policy think tank."

JD is a tax guy; what about Bill Beach or any of the rest of us in CDA? The major models are built here, and the major number crunching is done here. Most of us in CDA are Austrians, and we have a few major connections to GMU and Mercatus here, a major one of them being Bill's past work at IHS.


Not trying to be a jerk, but I can only comment on the students that work with me, not everyone else. And those students go primarily into academics (by choice). But some have gone into and are very successful in the private sector and policy sector.

Veronique de Rugy was a doctoral student of mine, she does just fine in the policy world. Very proud of her. Frederic Sautet was a doctoral student of mine (these are 2 of my 3 french connection students) and he has had an extremely successful policy career first in NZ and now here.

Part of the problem with the modern language of economic debate is in fact modeling and measuring in my mind. One of my goals is to try to fight that on a methodological front --- I think it is distortion of both the task of economics and the analysis of public policies. On this, read James Buchanan's critique of cost/benefit analysis and law and economics in Rowley, ed., book On The Origins of Law and Economics.

So the bottom line, GMU education in economics can be as technical as you want it --- take the course sequence that is recommended to ICES students, or take classes with the Center for Computational Social Science (and Rob Axtel). The beauty of GMU is that if this is NOT what you want, we give graduate students the opportunity to study with people like me, Dan Klein, Pete Leeson, or Richard Wagner. But if you do that, then don't expect to be a wizard in the world of modeling and measuring. We don't prepare you to do that, but we prepare you for something different.

GMU doesn't "educate" students, students educate themselves with their course selection. You get out of GMU what you want, and we provide the opportunity to get educated. The great thing for Austrian students, is that you can get a core training in conventional thinking so you can be a consumer of the model/measure economics, but focus on learning Austrian/new institutional/political economy/history of ideas/history of economies. There really isn't any place else to do that formally.

I don't really understand your disgruntlement, but I want to learn from it though. I take it that you really have found your time at GMU frustrating for your career aspirations. That is too bad.


I'm specifically talking about students educated with little math like at GMU. I have no problem with someone being an Austrian who can do mathematical analysis at a high level. That's great! I think economists who want to do well on the Hill should do that. It's one of the reasons Heritage is such a great place. But you don't get that combination at GMU unless as Pete mentioned you go out of your way to study things that the department isn't particularly specialized in.


You are repeating a mythology which is not accurate. How many faculty are Austrian low tech types that teach in the PhD program? OK, lets be generous here and say that myself, Pete Leeson, Dan Klein, Walter Williams and Richard Wagner should all be counted in that group. What does that leave you with? And only Walter and Dick have taught in the core. All the other faculty work with the model/measure literature.

There are many misinformed individuals out there who think that GMU doesn't offer technical training. Look at our faculty, where they publish, etc. This is why our department has the high conventional ranking that it does compared to our main competitors. But we do attract lots of students who want to study non-conventional things (you included I thought). So the students might not absorb all that is being taught.



But GMU does specialize in public policy (through Mercatus) and in computational economic modeling (through the Center for Social Complexity). So, I fail to see your point.

GMU does not do heavy econometrics training, that is true. But that is not necessarily what places like Heritage, and other free market policy institutions, care most about. We just hired someone for econometric modeling of global climate issues who has a PhD from Mason-

Another two of our top staff in CDA (and other senior staff elsewhere), don't even have a PhD, though both have done extensive private sector work.

Anyway, if you think GMU doesn't prepare one well for policy, that would come a surprise for Heritage's Center for Data Analysis folks. But, I guess we're just one (although we are #1 or #2 for influencing policy) policy institution.

On GMU econometrics: sure, GMU doesn't do the crazy hard core derive lots of new estimators and check their asymptotic properties kind of stuff. But as an applied econometrics programme, it's very good. Tom Stratmann's work is very well respected by everyone I've talked to in the field, and he covers (or at least in my era) the econometrics courses.

You hit the nail on the head Eric. Stratmann is awesome, as is Houser's statistical design class. The last two math econ teachers are Chicago PhDs. As I said, it is not the professors fault if SOME of the students cannot absorb. Nor is it the professors fault if the students do not take advantage of the opportunities available to them.

And finally, I have a general rule when it comes to students. No student from GMU has ever become really successful as an economist who doesn't appreciate what Walter Williams does as an economics teacher. The reason for this is simple --- Walter teaches UCLA price theory straight up (we don't have Armen Alchian on the faculty here, but Walter does his best imitation) and he also is motivated by Milton Friedman's challenge to him --- explain economics in 800 words or less or you don't really understand economics. Williams is a master of both --- UCLA price theory, and the 800 word explanation.

Just to agree with Eric, you can learn plenty of applied econometrics at Mason.

My friends know I have an awful memory, and so won't be surprised that I can't recall ever making the remark Peter attributes to me. I don't mean that he's making it up. Still I can't help wondering at being represented as a champion of not going out on any academic limbs!

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