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Research Ethics. Nadim H. Rabbani. Out line. Ethics and success Common reasons for unethical behavior Concepts of ethics Meaning of ethics Good research and ethical research Ethical theories The Nuremberg code of ethics Student’s participation in research

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Research ethics

Research Ethics

Nadim H. Rabbani

Out line

Out line

  • Ethics and success

  • Common reasons for unethical behavior

  • Concepts of ethics

  • Meaning of ethics

  • Good research and ethical research

  • Ethical theories

  • The Nuremberg code of ethics

  • Student’s participation in research

  • Employees participation in research

  • Data collection

  • Data presentation

  • Authorship

  • The process of obtaining funding

  • References

Ethics success

Ethics & Success

  • Society

    • Unethical behavior (Incorrect or unacceptable)

    • Social behavior shapes some of our ethical standards.

  • Ethics and Success

    • Are not at cross roads but assumed to be

    • Underlying danger that success might drive ethics out.

What might lead to unethical behavior

What might lead to unethical behavior ?

  • Ignorance

    • Why some professors don’t teach ethics??

      • The are not qualified

      • By the time students go to college their character is already shaped

      • High expectations:

        • We teach Mathematics but don’t’ expect students to be Mathematicians.

        • We teach ethics to inform and not to make students ethicists

  • Examples

    • Students don’t understand how to site references properlyand that leads them to plagiarize.

    • Teachers don’t pass on standards and rules.

    • Running an experiment and using 96% of results. What do we do with the remaining 4%

    • How much work must be quoted without citation to plagiarize?

    • Forgot to include a source or simply negligence.

Ignorance leading to unethical behavior

Ignorance leading to unethical behavior

  • Policies and standards of the school or the institution should be taught to the students.

  • Make sure that policies and standards are followed properly

    • Before it used to be monitoring, but now it is not enough since labs are growing and more money and dead lines are involved.

  • Telling students where to go with ethical concerns and which dean to talk to if he needs that.



  • I must get this grant

  • I need to get published

  • I must meet this deadline



  • Getting some thing done might seem more important than how to get it done.

  • We cannot remove stress but we can teach people how to deal with it.

    • Stress on teaching the virtue of science to pursuit knowledge

    • Talk about the outcome of forging data and future consequences

    • Patience and immediate result problem

    • Teach students to talk to teachers:

      • Protest the load of work

      • Design the experiment is not working and that is leading to this data.Change the design.

      • Ask for help when they need it and help them when they ask.

    • When things are not clear any more, step back and think objectively.

    • Reduce the load of work

    • Always think that there is an acceptable and ethical outcome

    • Teach students to think under stress.

Who will blow the whistle need a new job

Who will blow the whistle? Need a new job?

  • What to do when you see some one behaving unethically?

  • Relationship with that person will change the way you deal with the situation

    • A fellow faculty or a competitor.

  • Students make mistakes, you need to tell them that it is wrong to do it that way and direct them to the right way.

  • Witnessing misconduct

    • Make sure that there is abuse by documenting misconduct and try to get witnesses and facts.

    • Prepare a solid foundation.

    • Approaching the situation the right way

      • Can you explain those anomalies to me? OR How long have you been forging data?

    • If the person denies misconduct you need to go to higher level.

  • Students must be taught to:

    • Blow the whistle and report misconduct

    • Which dean to talk to?

    • What are the policies and regulations?

    • What is an approved procedure to report misconduct?

Concepts of ethics

Concepts of ethics

  • Moral Sensitivity:

    • “ The ability to recognize an issue or a problem as a moral problem”

      (Penslar,1995 ).

    • Identifying actions or ranges of actions that might define some actions that are ethical and some actions that are unethical like the use of animals in research.

  • Moral reasoning:

    • “Is the process of thinking about proper course of action when faced with an ethical challenge” (Penslar, 1995 ).

    • Not different from scientific reasoning but practice is a good idea.

  • Moral commitment:

    • “Is what takes to choose a ethically sound course of action over an unethical course of action” (Penslar, 1995 ).

    • What is the primary commitment

      • Ethics

      • Wealth

      • Successful research

Concepts and meaning of ethics

Concepts and meaning of ethics

  • Moral perseverance:

    • “Is having the ego strength and tenacity to follow through on one’s decisions” (Penslar, 1995 ).

    • Similar to moral commitment but not identical.

      • Lack of moral commitment might lead a person to act unethically, and some one with moral commitment might still act unethically if he became under pressure to do so.

  • Meaning of ethics

    • “Derived from the Greek ethos, meaning character, custom, or usage, or morality

      ( from the Latin synonym meaning manner,custom or habit), is the philosophical study of normative behavior, the “shoulds” and “oughts”, the”rights” and “wrongs” of our conduct.” (Penslar, 1995 ).

    • “Research ethics is a kind of applied ethics” (Penslar, 1995 ).

    • Resolves practical problems in the conduct of research.

    • Moral acceptability or appropriateness of specific conduct and the actions to be done.

Good research and ethical research

Good research and ethical research

  • Drawing the line between good research and ethical research is not always clear.

    • “Good research is concerned with the integrity and the soundness of data, where as research ethics is concerned with the means the data was collected” (Penslar, 1995 ).

    • Research ethics is concerned with the well being of others( Society, other people, animals) while standards concerning research does not necessarily do that.

  • Issues in research ethics:

    • Conduct of individuals

    • Research fraud

    • Mistreatment of lab animals

    • Accuracy and honesty in reporting results

    • Plagiarism

    • Violation of intellectual property rights

    • Conflict of interests ( researchers among each other or researchers and universities)

    • Principle of the contribution to science as a whole.

    • Check if a research is harmful to the society or to individuals.

    • How universities should resolve their conflicts among them selves.

Ethical research

Ethical research

  • Helpful resources:

    • Professional codes

    • Statement of moral norms by members of a profession

      • American Psychological association

      • American Historical association

    • Government regulations

      • More like laws

        • Use of humans as subjects of experiments

    • Religion

    • Cultural customs

  • Ethical theories:

    • Consequential ethics

    • Deontological ethics

    • Casuistical ethics

    • Virtue ethics

Consequentialist research

Consequentialist research

  • What are the possible harms that might result of an erroneous publication?

  • What response from me knowing that the results are wrong will result in more harm than good?

  • What harm might be done if the research results are not corrected?

  • What harm might I cause that person if I bring the subject out?

  • What are the benefits of talking to that person first?

  • What if that person used my approach to cover his/her track.

  • How each action will affect that person if he is innocent?

Consequentialist research1

Consequentialist research

  • Consequentialist research:

    • Focused on the results of the action

    • “The proper course of action is determined with it’s likely consequences, rather than its rightness or wrongness” (Penslar, 1995 ).

  • If they consider the welfare or the interests of others then they are called “Utilitarianism”.

    • “the end justifies the mean” (Penslar, 1995 ).

    • “The greatest good for the greatest number” (Penslar, 1995 ).

  • Good before right.

    • The end result is what matters.

Consequentialist research2

Consequentialist research

  • Act utilitarianism:

    • “Which of the available courses of action available to the actor are the most likely to produce the greatest good in the particular situation at hand”(Penslar, 1995 ).

    • We focus on a specific actor addressing a concrete and specific situation not on what would be the best course of action for some one on that situation.

    • Cumbersome and inefficient since we to consider every situation on its own despite similarities.

    • Rule utilitarianism:

      • Following a rule to result in the greatest good.

      • Finding and applying rules rather than acts.

      • Results of following a rule rather than an act.

      • An agent might follow a rule that might not lead to greatest good in a particular situation but does lead to some good results in general.

      • Gives you a chance to generalize

      • You don’t have to calculate every situation

      • Right or wrong based on conformity to a rule.

      • Justice might be sacrificed in particular situations in order to promote the greatest general good.

Deontological ethics

Deontological Ethics

  • What is my duty if I discover errors in some research?

  • What is the right thing to do in this case?

  • Were those errors caused deliberately or by negligently?

    • If negligently, what is the best way to reverse the effect of the misinterpreted information?

    • If deliberately then I must report this situation or get an investigation started.

  • Some acts are right or wrong regardless of the consequences.

  • We decide if an act is right or wrong by following rules that are supported or justified by principles.

    • Rules: Are more specific and limited in scope than principles.

    • Principles: More general, broad and abstract.( Truthfulness, fairness,justice,respect for persons and their intellectual property and integrity)

    • Example:

      “ Don’t deliberately distort your data by eliminating outliers” is a rule , but truthfulness is a principle.

Deontological ethics1

Deontological Ethics

  • In contrast to consequentialists, deontologicalists find some acts wrong regardless of the results that they might achieve.

  • Do what is right, determined by rules,laws,prohibitions, and norms regardless of the results.

  • Deontology : do what is right.

    • Will report research results even if that will result in not doing the “good” of human lives.

    • Other values that take precedence over the balance of good and evil.

  • Consequentialism: do what will achieve the greatest good.

  • Rule-based approaches assume there is one “right” solution for each ethical dilemma. (Penslar, 1995 ).

    • Which set of rules to use?

    • Which rules take precedence over others?

    • To be able to proceed you must determine which set of rule apply to a particular situation.

Deontological ethics2

Deontological Ethics

  • “Deontology is criticized for its narrow application of norms without reference to their real-life consequences” (Penslar, 1995 ).

    • “ If failure to tell the whole truth has the same consequences as deliberately lying and is done with the same motivations, why should it not be judged to be equally unethical? Similarly, why should respect for persons be more important basis for ethics than furthering the welfare of persons” (Penslar, 1995 ).

  • My duty to tell the truth and my duty to avoid harming others might conflict

    • Actual duty : “ What we ought to do in a particular situation” (Penslar, 1995 ).

      • Cannot be stated in the form of exceptionless rule

    • Prima facie duty:legally sufficient to establish a fact or a case unless disproved

      • “ What we ought to do if there are no intervening circumstances which may create problems for the actor in complying with prima facie duties”(Penslar, 1995 ).

      • Can be stated in the form of exceptionless rule.

      • Justice and contribution example

Deontological ethics3

Deontological Ethics

  • Rights

    • Right of a human research subjects to be treated with respect.

    • To be able to accept or refuse to participate in a research.

    • To be granted confidentiality.

    • Authorship , ownership of intellectual property, and conflict of interests.

  • Legal and moral rights:

    • “A college might have a moral right to be recognized as a contributor to a research publication but not a legal right to be listed as a co-author” (Penslar, 1995 ).

  • Rights alone are not enough to forma a frame work for ethics

    • They are important elements

    • Assertion of the rights of one person will involve recognition of the rights of others.

  • Act deontologists: “Morality can be assessed within the context of a particular factual situation and not in accordance to general rules” (Penslar, 1995 ).

Deontological ethics4

Deontological Ethics

  • Act deontologists:

    • Use rules but not as guidelines

    • “They fail to give a standard for what is right and what is wrong in particular cases, since it holds that particular judgment take precedence over any general rule” (Penslar, 1995 ).

    • Do not recognize that many moral situations have things in common and can be treaded the same using general moral rules.

    • Act deontology fails to provide reasons for moral judgments that apply in relevant cases and not only one particular situation.

Casuistical ethics

Casuistical Ethics

  • Is this a case of intentional wrong doing, where the researcher deliberately published false information for personal gain?

    • This is clearly unethical

  • Is this a case of negligent oversight, where the researcher did not the check the results before submitting them to publication?

    • It may be excusable and not even considered to be wrongdoing.

  • You may need to find more information about the motives before making any decision.

  • Casuistry: Comparing the current ethical situation to a similar one that is less problematic and easier to evaluate to help reach a decision. (Penslar, 1995 ).

    • Practical set of procedures to resolve real-life situations.

    • It pays close attention to the specific details of moral cases and circumstances.

    • “It analyzes particular moral problems by analogy to prior paradigm cases, rather than as a unique isolated, or totally unprecedented instances” (Penslar, 1995 ).

Casuistical ethics1

Casuistical Ethics

  • “Casuists begin by comparing the particular types of cases for their similarities and differences on a practical level.From these comparisons, they develop a moral taxonomy, or detailed and methodical map of significant likeliness and differences. Casuists then proceed to reason by analogy from clear-cut cases, where the resolution of a particular ethical issue is not controversial, to cases that are more problematic” (Penslar, 1995 ).

  • The practice of casuistry involves:

    • Practical wisdom

    • Under what circumstances and what conditions, the rules are relevant and should apply, and how to apply them.

  • Casuistry ethics:

    • The partiality or not fully developed resolution to ethical problem lead casuistry ethics to the possibility of not providing the level of certainty and universal applicability desirable in resolving moral dilemmas in research ethics.

Virtue ethics

Virtue Ethics

  • What is the person’s moral character?

  • Is this the first time that this happens with this person?

  • How likely is he to deal with this issue honestly?

  • Is he going to take use of my good will approach to uncover the errors?

  • Would uncovering the errors damage his reputation and character as a researcher?

  • What are my motives behind uncovering those errors?

  • Do I hold a grudge against this person and I want to see him suffer even if his mistakes were not intentional?

Virtue ethics1

Virtue Ethics

  • Virtue ethics:

    • Focuses on character or the moral quality of the actors rather than what those people did.

    • Focuses on the moral characters of the actors rather than the moral dilemma.

    • Is an acquire habit to act morally and do what is right.

    • Involves skills that we cultivate in ourselves.

    • Are character traits that incline us to act in accordance with moral rules and standards.

    • More of one’s tradition and community than of one’s independent will and choice.

  • “More about the character traits, dispositions, motivations and intentions, rather than the conformity of the agent's conduct to rules and standards or the outcome or consequences of the agent’s behavior per se”. (Penslar, 1995 )

    • Rules and results of the agent’s actions are used to asses the character of the agent.

Virtue ethics2

Virtue Ethics

  • Many professional codes of conduct stress on honesty, integrity, and fair dealing .

  • Virtue ethics may be helpful in assessing any violations of established normal forms of members of a profession.

  • Determining what sanctions to be taken for reporting wrong data:

    • Was it done on purpose? Whether that is true or not will determine the level of the sanction.

    • Was this the first time? This will give us an idea about the character of the person.

  • Limitations:

    • Morally good people don’t always know what is morally right despite their good intent.

    • The individualized nature of the virtue approach may not provide a standard for morally acceptable behavior in research.

      • “Honesty as a character trait may not be virtuous if it is used to maliciously discrete a college” (Penslar, 1995 )

The nuremberg code of ethics

The Nuremberg code of ethics

  • The voluntary consent of human subject is absolutely essential.

    • Should have the legal capacity to give consent.

    • Should be situated to be able to exercise the free power of choice.

  • The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature.

  • The experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and a knowledge of the natural history of the disease or other problem under study that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment.

  • The experiment should be so conducted to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.

  • No experiment should be conducted where there is a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the experimental physicians also serve as subjects.

  • The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment.

The nuremberg code of ethics1

The Nuremberg code of ethics

  • Proper preparation should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury,

    disability, or death.

  • The experiment should be conducted only by scientifically qualified persons. The highest degree of skill and care should be required through all the stages of the experiment of those who conduct or engage in the experiment.

  • During the course of the experiment the human subject should be at the liberty to bring the experiment to an end if he has reached the physical or mental state where continuation of the experiment seemed to him to be impossible.

  • During the course of the experiment the scientist on charge must be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probably cause to believe, in the exercise of the good faith, superior skill and careful judgment required of him that a continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury disability, or death to the experiment subject.

Basic ethical principles

Basic ethical principles

  • The expression “basic ethical principles” refers to those general judgments that serve as a basic justification for the many particular ethical prescriptions and evaluations of human actions.

    • Respect for persons:

      • The person should be treated as autonomous.

      • The person with diminished autonomy is entitled to protection.

      • Who is an autonomous person:

        • Can think and discuss his personal goals and act under those goals.

    • Protect hose who cannot make their own self determination or they are not eligible for doing so.

  • Beneficence:

    • Not only respect their decisions and protect them from harm but also make an effort to secure their well being.

      • Think of this as an obligation and not a charity.

      • Do not harm , and maximize possible benefits and minimize possible harms.

  • Justice:

    • The right to be treated equally.

    • Some one is denied benefits for no obvious reason.

    • The principle of fairness in distribution.

Student s participation in research

Student’s participation in research

  • The question of whether and in what way students are allowed to participate in research.

    • Student participation can be included as a course component for course credit

      ( Commonly included in psychology departments).

    • Students agreement to participate in the research might not be freely given because of a belief that doing so will put them in good favor with faculty(grades, recommendations , employment).

  • However

    • Prohibiting students from participating in research will be an over protective behavior.

    • A good approach is that faculty-investigators advertise for subjects generally, rather than recruit students individually.

  • Students participating in research for credits should be given the fair alternative of either special projects, brief reports, or brief quizzes for extra readings .

  • The papers and the quizzes are no to be graded.

  • Confidentiality

    • Mental health ,sexual behavior, use of drugs…

Employee s participation in research

Employee’s participation in research

  • Similar to the student situation

    • Influence of power.

    • Absence of free will because of concerns about grades (students) , job advancements( employees).

    • Confidentiality .

  • Employees of biomedical companies are ideal subjects for they understand the importance of their participation

  • Case study on the use of alcohol and the aggressive behavior

Data collection

Data Collection

  • Data collection is a crucial factor in reaching a conclusion in an experiment.

  • The importance of the tools or artifacts used.

  • Identifying the relevant variables and noting the significance of each variable to reach the experimental outcome.

  • Collect data with as much precision as possible.

  • The more and various are the steps, the more time and attention is required by the people conducting the experiment.

  • Learning period might yield unreliable data.

  • Training and resources.

  • What to do with the data collected during the learning period?

  • Pressure to produce data within a specific time period to support a hypothesis.

  • Overlooking some variables, or sloppiness

Data collection1

Data Collection

  • Data selection, analysis and interpretation

    • Moving from a set of scientific data to a conclusion.

    • Deciding on which data points can be removed and which are critical points of the experiment results.

    • Considering each data point might lead to a question that is of more importance than the original question.

    • Smoking and lung cancer???

      • Some people smoke and don’t get lung cancer.

    • Data analysis might be influenced by:

      • Expectations

      • Desires

      • Investment of time , effort, and ego.

      • Publication pressure.

Data presentation

Data presentation

  • Oral presentation

    • A scientist is invited to talk about his/her research and may present some data that has not been published yet. The scientist is looking for critical feed back and important input.

    • By sharing the results an early stage, someone else might carry out the work and obtain credit for it.

    • Restrict the audience to people that you have previous personal trust for.

    • When the research is at a stage to be presented to the outside world, there are some ethical issues:

      • The degree to to which one should be open as far as sharing data, experiment details…etc

      • Appropriately credit those who participated.

      • Adequately present the results.

      • A good way is to include the names of the people that contributed in the research in the presentation slides.

    • Data to present

      • Which to present and which to hide ?

      • Clear and accurate presentation of the findings.

      • The data should be presented in a way that enables them in principle to be reproduced by another experimenter

      • Experiments that present “ clues along the way” (Stern, 1997) are non reproducible.

Data presentation1

Data presentation

  • Searching and identifying the uncontrolled variables that cause variation in the experiment outcome.

  • Gordon research conference

    • Emphasis on informal nature.

    • Written proceedings are not kept to encourage oral and almost informal presentation of the findings.

    • Submission of abstracts that are not peer reviewed, and serve as a communication medium for the scientists.

    • Each presenter is limited to 10-15 min presentation.

      • You cannot present the whole story.

      • Using graphics to present data findings is not an easy task to do.

  • Written presentation

    • Oral presentation does not have the same approval as a peer reviewed publication.

    • Peer reviewed does not make the findings true.

      • The underlying assumptions that go into the analysis of the data are shared by the authors and the reviewers.

Data presentation2

Data presentation

  • Peer reviewed does not guarantee that the assumptions are true.

  • It does attempt to guarantee that:

    • “The process of attempting to identify critical controls and analytical pitfalls is carried out in a more formal and considered manner than it usually possible for oral presentation. “(Stern, 1997)

    • “A second function of the peer reviewed is to decide on the level of significance of the findings in the manuscript in relation to the mission of the journal itself.” (Stern, 1997)

  • Concerns on the side of the scientist

    • If the data and their interpretation are to pass the check from the reviewers prospective of scientific accuracy and experimental design.

    • The content is of sufficient to fit the profile of the journal to which it was submitted.

  • If a reviewers do not accurately understand the aspects of the paper. A second ,third or even a fourth reviewer is introduced.

  • Conflict of interest.

    • Do you feel comfortable reviewing paper X by author Y?

    • Author may choose one or two people that they want to be the reviewers.

  • Reviewer taking advantage by delaying a publication to get his paper published first.

Data presentation3

Data presentation

  • Postpublication ethical concerns

    • Make some agents or results described in the paper available to the scientific community.

    • May be overwhelming for a small lab to respond to a large number of requests.

    • A possible solution might be the creation of a small repository with cost constraints that supply the issues of interest to the scientific community.

    • What about taking the results and working on the next stage that is already being worked on in a small lab and beating them into the final result?

    • Some researchers prefer to explore a problem in depth before any publication or release of data ,but what about competition?

    • What if there is contradictions in the findings and the original study?

      • A publication to describe the differences between the current findings and the original ones is most appropriate.

      • An instrument might have caused the error.

Data presentation4

Data presentation

  • Presentation of scientific data and findings to society

    • Presents serious ethical issues to the scientist.

    • The pace of publication relative to clear social concern.

      • “The findings are of importance to both the public and the makers“.(Stern, 1997)

      • “ To carry out the study to the point where the highest degree of accuracy have been achieved must be considered” .(Stern, 1997)

    • Present the data in a way that presents the strengths and the weaknesses of the study.



  • Primary way for the researchers to communicate their ideas.

  • Credit for one’s effort and contributions is allocated.

  • A measure for the level of contribution to the scientific community.

  • Intentional plagiarism is stealing.

  • Assigning the responsibility of one’s findings, and the accuracy of the data presented.

  • More than one author , how will the responsibility and the contribution be distributed ?

  • Quantity and quality of publication

    • Small bits of related data points.

    • Same idea but different words.

  • Credit

    • Who should be the author and in what order should the authors be listed?

    • Concept or problem definition , experimentation or observation, and calculations; and writing.

    • Experimental design, data collection, data analysis, and interpretation.



  • “Authors are those who made a significant scientific contribution to the original, new information that is the core of the paper” .(Stern, 1997)

  • Should technicians, secretaries, programmers be considered authors ? Why ? Or why not?

  • Authorship is contribution and responsibility to the final product.

  • Must be able to take public responsibility for the contents of the paper

    • Why and how observations were made, and how conclusions follow from the data.

The process of obtaining funding

The process of obtaining funding

  • Research costs money:

    • Salaries , equipment, physical space, other services

  • Fund sources

    • Government, private non profit organizations, donations from private individuals, funds from private industry

  • Research grant and research contract

    • Research grant proposal: “ Justification of the significance of the question that the scientist proposes to test, the description of the research strategies and techniques that will be used to test the hypothesis, and the description of the methods of data analysis that will be used” .(Stern, 1997)

  • “ One key distinction between research grant and research contract is responsibility of hypothesis generation. “(Stern, 1997)

  • ” In the case of the research contract, the hypothesis to be tested, as well as the line of the investigation to be perused in terms of method, and strategy, is explicitly laid out by the organization providing the funding.” .(Stern, 1997)

The process of obtaining funding1

The process of obtaining funding

  • Ethical issues:

    • Same as peer reviewed articles

    • Some of the reviewers might be working on the same topic or issue.

    • Some research areas are preferred over others ( example AIDS related research).

  • “A scientist might be faced with an ethical dilemma of being committed to the type of research being conducted but disagrees to the motivation behind the research.” .(Stern, 1997)

  • The use of research on marine mammals by the US Navy to be used for military purposes.

  • The is no set of rules to insure fairness since the assessment of scientific merit is somewhat subjective,and relevance to program goals of the funding entity.



  • Penslar, R. L. (1995). Research Ethics, Cases & Materials, Indiana University Press.

  • Stern, D. E. a. J. E. (1997). Research Ethics, A reader, University press of New England.

  • Protecting human research subjects, Institutional review board guidebook , 1993, National institute of health.

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