Transdisciplinarity connotes a research strategy that crosses many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach. It applies to research efforts focused on problems that cross the boundaries of two or more disciplines, such as research on effective information systems for biomedical research (see bioinformatics), and can refer to concepts or methods that were originally developed by one discipline, but are now used by several others, such as ethnography, a field research method originally developed in anthropology but now widely used by other disciplines. The Belmont Forum [1] elaborated that a transdisciplinary approach is enabling inputs and scoping across scientific and non-scientific stakeholder communities and facilitating a systemic way of addressing a challenge. This includes initiatives that support the capacity building required for the successful transdisciplinary formulation and implementation of research actions.


Transdisciplinarity has two common meanings:

German usage

In German-speaking countries, Transdisziplinarität refers to the integration of diverse forms of research, and includes specific methods for relating knowledge in problem-solving.[2] A 2003 conference held at the University of Göttingen showcased the diverse meanings of multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity and made suggestions for converging them without eliminating present usages.[3]

When the very nature of a problem is under dispute, transdisciplinarity can help determine the most relevant problems and research questions involved.[4] A first type of question concerns the cause of the present problems and their future development (system knowledge). Another concerns which values and norms can be used to form goals of the problem-solving process (target knowledge). A third relates to how a problematic situation can be transformed and improved (transformation knowledge). Transdisciplinarity requires adequate addressing of the complexity of problems and the diversity of perceptions of them, that abstract and case-specific knowledge are linked, and that practices promote the common good.[5]

Transdisciplinarity arises when participating experts interact in an open discussion and dialogue, giving equal weight to each perspective and relating them to each other. This is difficult because of the overwhelming amount of information involved, and because of incommensurability of specialized languages in each field of expertise. To excel under these conditions, researchers need not only in-depth knowledge and know-how of the disciplines involved, but skills in moderation, mediation, association and transfer.

Wider usage

Transdisciplinarity is also used to signify a unity of knowledge beyond disciplines.[6]

Jean Piaget introduced this usage of the term in 1970, and in 1987, the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research (CIRET) adopted the Charter of Transdisciplinarity[7] at the 1st World Congress of Transdisciplinarity, Convento da Arrabida, Portugal, November 1994.

In the CIRET approach, transdisciplinarity is radically distinct from interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinarity, like pluridisciplinarity, concerns the transfer of methods from one discipline to another, allowing research to spill over disciplinary boundaries, but staying within the framework of disciplinary research.

As the prefix "trans" indicates, transdisciplinarity concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond each individual discipline. Its goal is the understanding of the present world, of which one of the imperatives is the overarching unity of knowledge.

Another critical defining characteristic of transdisciplinary research is the inclusion of stakeholders in defining research objectives and strategies in order to better incorporate the diffusion of learning produced by the research. Collaboration between stakeholders is deemed essential – not merely at an academic or disciplinary collaboration level, but through active collaboration with people affected by the research and community-based stakeholders. In such a way, transdisciplinary collaboration becomes uniquely capable of engaging with different ways of knowing the world, generating new knowledge, and helping stakeholders understand and incorporate the results or lessons learned by the research.[8]

Transdisciplinarity is defined by Basarab Nicolescu through three methodological postulates: the existence of levels of Reality, the logic of the included middle, and complexity.[9] In the presence of several levels of Reality the space between disciplines and beyond disciplines is full of information. Disciplinary research concerns, at most, one and the same level of Reality ; moreover, in most cases, it only concerns fragments of one level of Reality. On the contrary, transdisciplinarity concerns the dynamics engendered by the action of several levels of Reality at once. The discovery of these dynamics necessarily passes through disciplinary knowledge. While not a new discipline or a new superdiscipline, transdisciplinarity is nourished by disciplinary research; in turn, disciplinary research is clarified by transdisciplinary knowledge in a new, fertile way. In this sense, disciplinary and transdisciplinary research are not antagonistic but complementary. As in the case of disciplinarity, transdisciplinary research is not antagonistic but complementary to multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity research.

According to Nicolescu, transdisciplinarity is nevertheless radically distinct from multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity because of its goal, the understanding of the present world, which cannot be accomplished in the framework of disciplinary research. The goal of multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity always remains within the framework of disciplinary research. If transdisciplinarity is often confused with interdisciplinarity or multidisciplinarity (and by the same token, we note that interdisciplinarity is often confused with multidisciplinarity) this is explained in large part by the fact that all three overflow disciplinary boundaries. Advocates maintain this confusion hides the huge potential of transdisciplinarity.[10]

Currently, transdisciplinarity is a consolidated academic field that is giving rise to new applied researches, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this sense, the transdisciplinary and biomimetics research of Javier Collado [11] on Big History represents an ecology of knowledge between scientific knowledge and the ancestral wisdom of native peoples, such as Indigenous peoples in Ecuador. According to Collado,[12] the transdisciplinary methodology applied in the field of Big History seeks to understand the interconnections of the human race with the different levels of reality that co-exist in nature and in the cosmos, and this includes mystical and spiritual experiences, very present in the rituals of shamanism with ayahuasca and other sacred plants. In abstract, the teaching of Big History in universities of Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina implies a transdisciplinary vision that integrates and unifies diverse epistemes that are in, between, and beyond the scientific disciplines, that is, including ancestral wisdom, spirituality, art, emotions, mystical experiences and other dimensions forgotten in the history of science, specially by the positivist approach.

Arts and humanities

Transdisciplinarity can be found in the arts and humanities. For example, the Planetary Collegium seeks "the development of transdisciplinary discourse in the convergence of art, science, technology and consciousness research." The Plasticities Sciences Arts (PSA) research group also develops transdisiciplinary approaches regarding humanities and fundamental sciences relationships as well as the Art & Science field.

Global education

Transdisciplinarity can be also found in Global Education. For example, Global Education Magazine, an international journal supported by UNESCO and UNHCR: "transdisciplinarity represents the capable germ to promote an endogenous development of the evolutionary spirit of internal critical consciousness, where religion and science are complementary. Respect, solidarity and cooperation should be global standards for the entire human development with no boundaries. This requires a radical change in the ontological models of sustainable development, global education and world-society. We must rely on the recognition of a plurality of models, cultures and socio-economical diversification. As well as biodiversity is the way for the emergence of new species, cultural diversity represents the creative potential of world-society." [13]

Human sciences

The range of transdisciplinarity becomes clear when the four central questions of biological research ((1) causation, (2) ontogeny, (3) adaptation, (4) phylogeny [after Niko Tinbergen 1963, see also Tinbergen's four questions, cf. Aristotle: Causality / Four Major Causes]) are graphed against distinct levels of analysis (e.g. cell, organ, individual, group; [cf. "Laws about the Levels of Complexity" of Nicolai Hartmann 1940/1964, see also Rupert Riedl 1984]):[14]

Causation Ontogeny Adaptation Phylogeny

In this "scheme of transdisciplinarity", all anthropological disciplines (paragraph C in the table of the pdf-file below), their questions (paragraph A: see pdf-file) and results (paragraph B: see pdf-file) can be intertwined and allocated with each other for examples how these aspects go into those little boxes in the matrix, see e.g. the table "The Framework of Anthropological Research" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2014-07-07.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) This chart includes all realms of anthropological research (no one is excluded). It is the starting point for a systematical order for all human sciences, and also a source for a consistent networking and structuring of their results. This "bio-psycho-social" orientation framework is the basis for the development of the "Fundamental Theory of Human Sciences" and for a transdisciplinary consensus. (In this tabulated orientation matrix the questions and reference levels in italics are also the subject of the humanities.). Niko Tinbergen was familiar with both conceptual categories (i.e. the four central questions of biological research and the levels of analysis), the tabulation was made by Gerhard Medicus. Certainly, a humanist perspective always involves a transdisciplinary focus. A good and classic example of mixing very different sciences was the work developed by Leibniz in seventeenth-eighteenth centuries in order to create a universal system of justice.[15]

See also



  1. ^
  2. ^ Mittelstrass 2003
  3. ^ Brand/Schaller/Völker 2004
  4. ^ (Funtowicz & Ravetz 1993)
  5. ^ Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2008, Jaeger & Scheringer 1998
  6. ^ Nicolescu 2002
  7. ^ Charter of Transdisciplinarity
  8. ^ Wickson, F., Carew, A.L. & Russell, A.W. 2006
  9. ^ Transdisciplinarity – Theory and Practice (Ed.), Hampton Press, Cresskill, NJ, USA, 2008.
  10. ^ Hult, F.M. (2010). Theme-based research in the transdisciplinary field of educational linguistics. In F.M. Hult (Ed.), Directions and prospects for educational linguistics (pp. 19-32). New York: Springer.
  11. ^ Collado-Ruano, Javier. Coevolution in the Big History - a transdisciplinary and biomimetic introduction to the Sustainable Development Goals (PDF).
  12. ^ Collado-Ruano, Javier. Bioethics as a transdisciplinary science of complexity: a coevolutive introduction from the Big History. p. 56.
  13. ^ Transdisciplinary Education as Ethic of the Diversity Reform in the World-Society of the 21st Century, article published by Javier Collado on June 20th: World Refugee Day in Global Education Magazine, ISSN 2255-033X
  14. ^ Excerpt from Medicus 2005, with the authors permission
  15. ^ See José Andrés-Gallego, 42. "Are Humanism and Mixed Methods Related? Leibniz's Universal (Chinese) Dream": Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 29(2) (2015): 118-132:


External links

Anthropological theories of value

Anthropological theories of value attempt to expand on the traditional theories of value used by economists or ethicists. They are often broader in scope than the theories of value of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, etc. usually including sociological, political, institutional, and historical perspectives (transdisciplinarity). Some have influenced feminist economics.

The basic premise is that economic activities can only be fully understood in the context of the society that creates them. The concept of "value" is a social construct, and as such is defined by the culture using the concept. Yet we can gain some insights into modern patterns of exchange, value, and wealth by examining previous societies. An anthropological approach to economic processes allows us to critically examine the cultural biases inherent in the principles of modern economics. Anthropological linguistics is a related field that looks at the terms we use to describe economic relations and the ecologies they are set within. Many anthropological economists (or economic anthropologists) are reacting against what they see as the portrayal of modern society as an economic machine that merely produces and consumes.

Marcel Mauss and Bronisław Malinowski for example wrote about objects that circulate in society without being consumed. Georges Bataille wrote about objects that are destroyed, but not consumed. Bruce Owens talks about objects of value that are neither circulating nor consumed (e.g. gold reserves, warehoused paintings, family heirlooms).

Audrey Samson


Audrey Samson is a Canadian a multidisciplinary artist-researcher whose work points to the materiality of data and its consequences. She is largely known for her exploration of erasure as a means of knowledge production through digital data funerals.Samson studied Media Design at the Piet Zwart Institute, where she obtained a MFA in 2007.

Together with Sabrina Basten, she co-founded Roger10-4. Their work was featured in Arte, NRK, and Motherboard. She has been an active member of the networked performance group aether9, and the feminist tech network Genderchangers. Samson is also known by the pseudonym ideacritik, and is part of the duo FRAUD.

Basarab Nicolescu

Basarab Nicolescu (born March 25, 1942, Ploieşti, Romania) is an honorary theoretical physicist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Laboratoire de Physique Nucléaire et de Hautes Énergies, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris. He is also a Professor at the Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania and Docteur ès-Sciences Physiques (PhD), 1972, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris. He was appointed Professor Extraordinary at Stellenbosch University, South Africa for the period 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2016 and was elected as Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) Fellow in 2011.

He is the president and founder of the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research and Studies (CIRET), a non-profit organization (167 members from 30 countries).

In addition, he is the co-founder, with René Berger, of the Study Group on Transdisciplinarity at UNESCO (1992) and the founder and Director of the "Transdisciplinarity" Series, Rocher Editions, Monaco and of the "Romanians of Paris", Piktos/Oxus Editions, Paris.

He is also a specialist in the theory of elementary particles. Basarab Nicolescu is the author of more than one hundred thirty articles in leading international scientific journals, has made numerous contributions to science anthologies and participated in several dozens French radio and multimedia documentaries on science.

Basarab Nicolescu is a major advocate of the transdisciplinary reconciliation between science and the humanities. He has published many articles on the role of science in contemporary culture in journals in France, Romania, Italy, United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Japan and in the USA.

The Academy of Transdisciplinary Learning and Advanced Studies (ATLAS), Texas, USA decided to institute the "Basarab Nicolescu Transdisciplinary Science & Engineering Award". The first prizes were attributed in 2014.

Chain-linked model

The chain-linked model or Kline model of innovation was introduced by mechanical engineer Stephen J. Kline in 1985, and further described by Kline and economist Nathan Rosenberg in 1986. The chain-linked model is an attempt to describe complexities in the innovation process. The model is regarded as Kline's most significant contribution.


Complexity characterises the behaviour of a system or model whose components interact in multiple ways and follow local rules, meaning there is no reasonable higher instruction to define the various possible interactions.The term is generally used to characterize something with many parts where those parts interact with each other in multiple ways, culminating in a higher order of emergence greater than the sum of its parts. The study of these complex linkages at various scales is the main goal of complex systems theory.

Science as of 2010 takes a number of approaches to characterizing complexity; Zayed et al.

reflect many of these. Neil Johnson states that "even among scientists, there is no unique definition of complexity – and the scientific notion has traditionally been conveyed using particular examples..." Ultimately Johnson adopts the definition of "complexity science" as "the study of the phenomena which emerge from a collection of interacting objects".

Discipline (academia)

An academic discipline or academic field, also known as a field of study, field of inquiry, research field and branch of knowledge, is a subdivision of knowledge that is taught and researched at the college or university level. Disciplines are defined (in part), and recognized by the academic journals in which research is published, and the learned societies and academic departments or faculties to which their practitioners belong.

It includes scientific disciplines.

It incorporates expertise, people, projects, communities, challenges, studies, inquiry, and research areas that are strongly associated with a given scholastic subject area or college department. For example, the branches of science are commonly referred to as the scientific disciplines, e.g. physics, chemistry, and biology.

Individuals associated with academic disciplines are commonly referred to as experts or specialists. Others, who may have studied liberal arts or systems theory rather than concentrating in a specific academic discipline, are classified as generalists.

While academic disciplines in and of themselves are more or less focused practices, scholarly approaches such as multidisciplinarity/interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, and cross-disciplinarity integrate aspects from multiple academic disciplines, therefore addressing any problems that may arise from narrow concentration within specialized fields of study. For example, professionals may encounter trouble communicating across academic disciplines because of differences in language or specified concepts.

Some researchers believe that academic disciplines may, in the future, be replaced by what is known as Mode 2 or "post-academic science", which involves the acquisition of cross-disciplinary knowledge through collaboration of specialists from various academic disciplines.

Edgar Morin

Edgar Morin (; French: [mɔʁɛ̃]; born Edgar Nahoum on 8 July 1921) is a French philosopher and sociologist who has been internationally recognized for his work on complexity and "complex thought" (pensée complexe), and for his scholarly contributions to such diverse fields as media studies, politics, sociology, visual anthropology, ecology, education, and systems biology. He holds degrees in history, economics, and law. Though less well known in the anglophone world due to the limited availability of English translations of his over 60 books, Morin is renowned in the French-speaking world, Europe, and Latin America.

Environmental social science

Environmental social science is the broad, transdisciplinary study of interrelations between humans and the natural environment. Environmental social scientists work within and between the fields of anthropology, communication studies, economics, geography, history, political science, psychology, and sociology; and also in the interdisciplinary fields of environmental studies, human ecology and political ecology, social epidemiology, among others.

Integral City

Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive (2008) is a book by Marilyn Hamilton. It posits a concept called the "Integral City", which is a city as a living human system. It is architecture and city planning based on Integral Theory.

Hamilton's book came out of her dissertation The Berkana Community of Conversations (Hamilton, 1999), and other published articles and conference papers by Hamilton.

The book was reviewed in World Future Review, Kosmos Journal, Futurist, Alternatives Journal, Canadian Journal of Urban Research, and EnlightenNext.

Jane Bennett (political theorist)

Jane Bennett (born July 31, 1957) is an American political theorist and philosopher. She is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at the Department of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University School of Arts and Sciences. She is also the editor of the academic journal Political Theory.

Joël de Rosnay

Joël de Rosnay, (born 12 June 1937) is Docteur ès Sciences and scientific writer, presently President of Biotics International, a consulting company specialized in the impact of new technologies on industries, and Special Advisor to the President of the Universcience (Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie at La Villette et Palais de la Découverte) of which he was Director of Forecasting and Assessment until June 2002.

From 1975 to 1985 he was Director of Research Applications at l'Institut Pasteur (the Pasteur Institute in Paris).

Former research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the field of biology and computer graphics, he was successively Scientific Attaché to the French Embassy in the United States, and Scientific Director of European Enterprises Development Company (a venture capital group) from 1971 to 1975. He is famous for pioneering surfing in France in 1957 and created the Surf Club de France in 1964.

He is particularly interested in advanced technologies and the applications of system theory. On these subjects, he wrote :

"Le Macroscope" (1975), "Les Chemins de la Vie" (The paths of life) (1983) and "Le Cerveau Planétaire" (The planetary brain) (1986). As well as several reports, namely : "Biotechnologies and Bio Industry" (1979), an annex to the report "Sciences de la vie et Société" by Professors Gros, Jacob and Royer. He was also co-responsible for the report which led to the creation of CESTA (Centre d'Etudes des Systèmes et des Technologies Avancées / Center for the study of systems and advanced technologies, 1982).

He wrote for several years on new technologies for the economic magazine "L'Expansion". He speaks on the same subject for Europe1, a radio network. He is the author of several scientific books aimed at a large public, such as "Les origines de la vie", (The origins of life) (1966); "La malbouffe" (the wrong food)(1979), "La Révolution Biologique", (the biological revolution)(1982) ; "Branchez-vous" (Plug-in!), (1984), a book on personal computers ; "L'Aventure du Vivant" (The adventure of life) (1988) ; "L'avenir en direct" (Live from the future), (1989) ; "Les rendez-vous du Futur" (Rendez-vous with the future) (1991) ; "L'Homme Symbiotique, regards sur le 3eme millénaire" (Symbiotic Man, a look into the third millennium) (1995). "La plus belle histoire du monde", (The most beautiful history of the World) with Yves Coppens, Hubert Reeves and Dominique Simonnet, Seuil, 1996. "Une vie en plus" with Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber, François de Closets and Dominique Simonnet, Seuil 2005. "La révolte du Pronétariat" with the collaboration of Carlo Revelli, Fayard, 2006. "2020 : Les scénarios du futur", Fayard, 2008. "Surfer la Vie, Sur-Vivre dans la société fluide", LLL mai 2012. "Je cherche à comprendre...les codes cachés de la nature" LLL, 2016. His last book,"La Symphonie du vivant, comment l'épigénétique va changer votre vie", édité chez LLL, 2018.

Joël de Rosnay is laureate of the Prize of the Scientific Information 1990 of the Academy of Sciences and the Benjamin Constant Prize of the Arts of Communication 1994 of the Society of Encouragement of National Industry.

He was elected "Digital Personality of the Year 2012" by Acsel (Association for the Digital Economy).

On March 12, 2018 he rose to the rank of Grand Commander of the Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean (GCSK) by the Republic of Mauritius for his contribution to the field of research and the environment.

His wife Stella is the daughter of Gladwyn Jebb, 1st Baron Gladwyn. His daughter is novelist Tatiana de Rosnay.

Jürgen Mittelstraß

Jürgen Mittelstraß (born October 11, 1936 in Düsseldorf) is a German philosopher especially interested in the philosophy of science.

Ken Wilber

Kenneth Earl Wilber II (born January 31, 1949) is an American writer on transpersonal psychology and his own integral theory, a systematic philosophy which suggests the synthesis of all human knowledge and experience.

Maurizio Bolognini

Maurizio Bolognini (born July 27, 1952) is a post-conceptual media artist. His installations are mainly concerned with the aesthetics of machines, and are based on the minimal and abstract activation of technological processes that are beyond the artist's control, at the intersection of generative art, public art and e-democracy.


As coined in the writings of Marshall McLuhan, metamedia referred to new relationships between form and content in the development of new technologies and new media. [REFERENCE NEEDED: The book Understanding Media doesn't once use the word metamedia, meta-media, meta-medium or metamedium.]

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the term was taken up by writers such as Douglas Rushkoff and Lev Manovich. Contemporary metamedia, such as at Stanford, has been expanded to describe, "a short circuit between the academy, the art studio and information science exploring media and their archaeological materiality." Metamedia utilizes new media and focuses on collaboration across traditional fields of study, melding everything from improvisational theatre and performance art, to agile, adaptive software development and smart mobs.

Planetary Collegium

The Planetary Collegium is an international research platform that promotes the integration of art, science, technology, and consciousness research, under the rubric of technoetic arts. It is currently based in Plymouth University. The Collegium's Hub is the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in Integrative Arts (CAiiA), and it has had nodes in Zurich, Milan, Lucerne, Trento, Kefalonia, and currently in Shanghai. The founding President is Professor Roy Ascott.

Ronald Jones (interdisciplinarian)

Ronald Jones (born July 8, 1952 in the United States) is an artist, critic and educator who gained prominence in New York City during the mid-1980s. In the magazine Contemporary, Brandon Labelle wrote: "Working as an artist, writer, curator, professor, lecturer and critic over the last 20 years, Jones is a self-styled Conceptualist, spanning the worlds of academia and art, opera and garden design, and acting as paternal spearhead of contemporary critical practice. Explorative and provocative, Jones creates work that demands attention that is both perceptual and political." Labelle positions Jones along the leading edge of a "contemporary critical practice" that is perhaps best described as interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary.

Roy Ascott

Roy Ascott (born 26 October 1934) is a British artist, who works with cybernetics and telematics, on an art which is technoetic, focusing on the impact of digital and telecommunications networks on consciousness.

Ascott exhibits internationally (including the Biennales of Venice and Shanghai), and is collected by Tate Britain and Arts Council England. He is recognised by Ars Electronica as the “visionary pioneer of media art”, and widely seen as a radical innovator in arts education and research, having occupied leading academic roles in England, Europe, North America, and China, and currently establishing his Technoetic Arts studio in Shanghai; directing a worldwide doctoral research network. In 2018 he became the sole subject of Cybernetics & Human Knowing: A Journal of Second Order Cybernetics, Autopoiesis and Cybersemiotics entitled "A Tribute to the Messenger Shaman: Roy Ascott".. "

Dr.Kate Sloan's comprehensive study of his early work "Art Cybernetics and Pedagogy in Post-War Britain: Roy Ascott's Groundcourse was published in 2019.

He is President of the Planetary Collegium, Professor of Technoetic Arts Plymouth University, and the De Tao Master of Technoetic Arts at the DeTao Masters Academy in Shanghai.He is also Chief Specialist of the Visual Art Innovation Institute at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. He is the founding editor of the research journal Technoetic Arts, an honorary editor of Leonardo Journal, and author of the book Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology and Consciousness. University of California Press

He is recipient of the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica award for Visionary Pioneer of Media Art 2014. The award is for “those men and women whose artistic, technological and social achievements have decisively influenced and advanced the development of new artistic directions.” He is a Doctor Honoris Causa of Ionian University, Corfu, Greece; Honorary Professor at Aalborg University Copenhagen; Honorary Professor at University of West London.

Stéphane Lupasco

Stéphane Lupasco (born Ştefan Lupaşcu; 11 August 1900 – 7 October 1988) was a Romanian philosopher who developed non-Aristotelian logic.

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