At What Cost? Charting the Future of the American Research University
Provost Lloyd B. Minor
March 3, 2011
Address at the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
As prepared for delivery
[Introduction by Dean Jessica Einhorn]
One of the great pleasures I have experienced since becoming provost of Johns Hopkins University is coming to know much better—and understand much better—the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. It is always a special treat to come down to Washington and see firsthand the exciting things underway on this campus. Thank you, Jessica, for your wonderful leadership of SAIS, for always making me feel so welcome on this campus, and thank you especially for that very kind introduction.
Someone once asked the billionaire J. Paul Getty “Mr. Getty, what’s the secret of your success?”
Getty answered, “Rise early. Work late. Strike oil.”
I think that’s also good advice on how to be a successful provost. You can do a lot by rising early and working late. But in order to really be able to claim success, you need to strike oil.
At research universities “striking oil” means finding ways of supporting the faculty that foster meaningful discovery and significant advances in knowledge.
- You know you’ve struck oil when Adam Riess in the Department of Physics and Astronomy wins the Einstein Medal as he did just last month 
- Or when SAIS Professor of International Economics Anne Krueger is recognized for having authored one of the 20 most influential articles of the last 100 years in the American Economic Review 
- Or when someone points out that of roughly 120 cancer genomes that have been sequenced so far, 90 of them were done by Bert Vogelstein and his colleagues in the School of Medicine .
At Johns Hopkins, members of our faculty are striking oil all the time, which is one of the things that makes us distinctive, and emulated, and admired.
But it doesn’t make us immune. It doesn’t grant us exemption. It does not recuse us from the robust national debate occurring here in Washington—and in state capitals across the country—about what we value, what we need, and what we as a nation are willing to pay for.
Come July it will be 65 years since Vannevar Bush submitted to President Truman his report titled Science, the Endless Frontier. Bush was the director of the wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development that oversaw, among other projects, the development of the atomic bomb and the invention of the proximity fuse at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.
But his report to the president was not about weapons systems. It was about how basic scientific research was—quote: “the pacemaker of technological progress.” Bush wrote that “New products, new industries, and more jobs require continuous additions to knowledge…. This essential new knowledge can be obtained only through basic scientific research” .
There you have it. This is the formulation of the great consensus that emerged in postwar America. It is shared by Republicans and Democrats alike: our government would generously fund research of all kinds in order that our society would copiously receive its benefits.
If we are going to participate in this critical national debate, there are questions we must address: Does the formula still work? Is the policy still worth pursuing?
I am convinced it does, and it is. And I would like to take just a few minutes here to tell you about my own experience in this regard.
As a young otolaryngologist at Johns Hopkins, some of my first patients were referred to me by the hospital’s psychiatrists. One man said he got dizzy when he sang in the shower. Another said he could hear the sound of his own eyes moving. I would later discover that these patients were experiencing symptoms coming from inside their heads—but not in the ways others might have supposed. They were suffering from superior canal dehiscence, a debilitating disorder characterized by sound- and pressure- induced dizziness, caused by tiny holes in the bone overlying the superior canal of their inner ear.
Louis Pasteur said “Chance favors the prepared mind.” In retrospect my discovery was serendipitous; but it was made possible by the unique culture at Johns Hopkins: a culture that for over a century has championed and nurtured the synthesis of basic science, clinical research and the care of patients.
I came to Johns Hopkins in 1993. Starting with only 400 square feet of lab space and a very modest budget, I built a lab and clinical program devoted to understanding, diagnosing, and treating inner ear balance disorders. I was fortunate to attract truly outstanding people to work with me and to advance our work with growing grant funding.
My discovery of superior canal dehiscence syndrome came about because of something I observed. When these patients are exposed to loud noises or changes in pressure, their eyes do not move randomly. Rather, they move in the plane of one of the inner ear balance canals. From basic research conducted over a century ago and carried forward by other laboratories including my own, it was known that stimulation of a balance canal in the inner ear causes the eyes to move in the plane of that same canal. It was an easy step from there to relate the cause of these patients’ unusual symptoms to the superior semicircular canal.
When the popular television drama Grey’s Anatomy featured superior canal dehiscence in one of its episodes, it was these specific eye movements that allowed Dr. Alex Karev to make the correct diagnosis. His patient too had been referred by the psychiatry service.
Fortunately for the real patients that suffer from superior canal dehiscence, we were able to track the disorder to the inner ear, thereby clearing up a mystery and eliminating a great deal of unnecessary and ineffective treatments. Experiments I had pursued in my basic research allowed me to devise a surgery to correct the problem. This surgery is now practiced around the world and has brought benefit to hundreds of patients.
From an insider’s perspective, it seemed that the wonderful opportunities of the American system of higher education worked for me like an hourglass.
I started off slowly in the broadest of studies. Then the focus of my interest narrowed and narrowed again, and the pace of my studies picked up speed—focusing and falling in one direction, leading eventually to my discovery.
Now I have emerged at the other end. Now I am a provost, and I am suddenly once again in contact with the enormous breadth and scope of the entire university.
I shared this idea with my wife. I told her that my career has been like an hourglass. She agreed.
She said: “It took you 11 years of postgraduate training to learn more and more about less and less. Now that you’re provost you get to know less and less about more and more.”
As I hope you surmised from my story, it is not enough that a report to President Truman called for a robust national policy of fundamental research. There must be a means of achieving that goal, and over the past 65 years we have developed an unparalleled system of research universities to do just that.
We are certainly not the only nation with universities, nor are we the only nation with universities devoted to conducting research and discovering new knowledge. And yet our system is truly exceptional. In my own career I am a clinician scientist—I have worked at the lab bench conducting basic scientific research, and then in turn taken what I have learned and applied it—in my case through clinical practice. I am hardly alone in what I do, and it is not just in medicine that this progression of basic research to practical application can be found. Yet when describing this model, it is something that mostly seems to pertain in America. You don’t typically see the model of the clinician scientist—or its non-medical equivalent—in Europe or Asia. Why is that? What factors have enabled this model at American research universities to succeed? In other words, what have we needed to do, what has been provided to us, to make possible the past ascendancy of American higher education, and in particular, our research universities?
I want to propose to you today that there are three fundamental criteria that have made, and continue to make, this system work.
The first is autonomy. Prior to serving as Brazil’s 34th president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso was a professor of political science and sociology at the University of São Paulo. During that time, he spent a year in the United States doing research. Later, after he was president, he met with a group of U.S. Senators and one asked him what he remembered most about his year here. He answered instantly: “The greatness and the autonomy of the American university. There is nothing like it in the world” .
What is this autonomy President Cardoso describes? I think it’s twofold. In general I would maintain that American universities have traditionally granted considerable autonomy to their faculty members and even in a fair degree to their students. One of the reasons I think you don’t see the same tradition of the great clinician-researcher in other countries is because they tend to have systems that are strongly prescriptive—they identify perceived strengths and weaknesses early and track students through a specific career in that direction. Missing is the freedom to take big chances and, ultimately, make big discoveries.
One result of that autonomy is an interdisciplinary culture in American research universities that you don’t see in European universities. At Johns Hopkins, our faculty have pioneered trans-disciplinary studies such as Arthur Lovejoy and the history of ideas or Sam Talbot and biomedical engineering. Our two most popular undergraduate majors are public health studies and international studies—not departments but interdisciplinary programs.
But there is a second, and I think even more important aspect of what President Cardoso described and that is institutional autonomy. Most countries plan, control, fund and regulate their systems of higher education—oftentimes I think within an inch of their lives. Institutions of higher education in Europe are centralized and controlled by the state. Executive powers given to university presidents in the United States extend far beyond those conferred on European rectors . Some countries are still faced with line-item budgets preventing them from moving funding between different activities. Many European countries do not give universities the right to own their own buildings; in less than a third can they invest in stocks and shares; and in nearly half of the countries university staff are civil servants .
In the United States our system of colleges and universities is incredibly diverse and at times even chaotic, encompassing community and vocational colleges, four-year private and public colleges and universities, and research universities—and now on top of that a robust and expanding system of for-profit schools. Within all this diversity there is tremendous room for our schools to set their own courses. This fundamental value—autonomy—is the foundation on which our academic paths are built.
The second value is freedom. It is fitting that SAIS established its first overseas campus in Bologna, the seat of Europe’s oldest university. Bologna is perhaps even more important because of a document originating there in the year 1155. In the Authentica Habita, Emperor Frederick for the first time formalized the rules, rights and privileges of universities—most importantly, the freedom for scholars to travel freely. Leading one university president to lament that they got on a plane in 1155 and we haven’t seen them since!
The cornerstone of our educational enterprise going back centuries is this concept of academic freedom. Over time it has evolved to allow scholars to dispute openly and freely all doctrines and every idea. Rigorous debate, the free arguing of ideas, the free sharing of discoveries—this is the foundation of the rise of democracy and the cornerstone of the scientific revolution. This is why it was so important for us to insist, when SAIS opened its campus in Nanjing, on an open stacks library.
The final criterion is meritocracy, perhaps best exemplified in the peer review publication and research funding system. The peer review process provides tremendous individual autonomy to our faculty. Essentially, if you can raise the money through grants, you can study and publish what you please—the idea being that the grant process itself is an effective way to prevent favoritism and bias and reward innovative thinking and research.
Meritocracy is further exemplified by an evolving value that we must candidly admit is still only imperfectly realized. This is the declared openness of American universities to women and men of every race, ethnicity, culture, nationality and citizenship. This indeed may be the most difficult, but also the most important criterion of all, because at its most fundamental level it promotes a society built on the idea of fairness—that anyone with good ideas, with a new perspective or a fresh insight—can have the opportunity to nurture that discovery to fruition. The core value of meritocracy means that in most cases sooner or later the good ideas, the true discoveries, the profound insights, are irrepressible. The cream rises to the top. In the end great science, great ideas, and great analyses speak for themselves. And by embracing meritocracy, great institutions survive—and thrive.
Consider that in the world of business, failure is commonplace. The average life expectancy of a multinational corporation is only about half a century . The Dow Jones Industrial Average—the world’s most famous stock index—premiered when Johns Hopkins University was two decades old. Today, of the original twelve stocks on the Dow, only General Electric remains . In 1955 the Fortune 500 premiered—the list of the world’s 500 greatest companies. Today, only 62 of those companies are still in business . Corporations have come and gone, but research universities have consistently prospered. Higher education is not just one of America’s greatest resources; it’s also one of its most enduring. Why is this?
I believe that our longevity, as well as our success, is a result of our stubborn adherence to our mission and core values of autonomy, freedom, and meritocracy. These principles have defined us throughout time. They have brought us to where we are today. America pioneered the first mass-system of higher education bringing a greater number and higher percentage of young people into college than any other country had done previously. While doing this we also successfully integrated the German model of the research university—starting here at Johns Hopkins—that incorporates discovery as a fundamental part of our mission. The focus on discovery continues to define our best universities to this day.
The question often comes up: just who has benefited from this emphasis on discovery?
The answer, very clearly, is all of us—not just here in America but all around the world. We have accrued enormous benefits of an immensely practical nature. University research has brought about life and society-changing inventions like lasers, FM radio, MRI, cognitive therapy, GPS, antibiotics, the Richter scale, computers, free-market theory, bioengineering, and the list goes on and on. For our nation as well it has provided fundamental advantages that helped us prevail in both the hot conflicts of World War II and the Cold War that followed.
The preeminence of American higher education—and specifically, the roughly 120 or so research universities that combine education with discovery—is universally acknowledged. There are many different measures that indicate the phenomenal degree of our success. One world ranking of international institutions of higher learning puts 17 American universities among the top 20 . The American preponderance of Nobel Laureates and of international awards in the sciences, mathematics and humanities is further evidence of the reach and achievement of our research universities as engines of discovery. Americans recognize this outstanding level of achievement and the value it provides. Surveys have shown that a large majority of our citizens value our universities as one of our most important national resources .
This undisputed success, and the innumerable benefits that America’s research universities have provided, have also acted as a tremendous stimulus to economic growth, which is why one of the defining characteristics of the 21st century has been a huge increase in investment in higher education around the globe. Other countries are keenly aware that American universities have been hugely successful at spawning new businesses and even new industries.
Yet I would argue that our research universities make a contribution that is even more important. It is this: there is a fundamental underlying belief that sustains our higher education system. It is the idea that a university offers double value—both for the individual (who matriculates there) and for our society as a whole.
We expect our universities to provide practical and tangible benefits that make our world better. As such, they are trusted agents. They are expected to work for the benefit of us all. In doing so, they provide benefits to us all.
Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, they play a vital role as social levelers, giving anyone who is willing to work hard enough the opportunity to better themselves both intellectually and materially.
But just because American higher education currently enjoys international preeminence doesn’t mean that it will always will. After all, fifty years ago General Motors was the largest private employer and a model for the world. And despite all of our successes, there are some signs of trouble—nagging questions about why college costs so much and whether students are really learning. It’s fitting that we ask: Will we always be great? Or will we one day soon wake up to find that what we have done so well in the past is simply no longer sustainable in a new and different era? Will this model continue to apply?
And if it does, how are we going to afford it?
It is challenging, to say the least, to talk about college costs in America.
I think this is for two reasons in particular.
The first has to do with the fact that many of us know what we know, and won’t be convinced otherwise. If for instance, undergraduate tuition at Johns Hopkins was $5,035 in 1980 and it is $40,680 in 2010, then for many the only salient fact is that a year at university today is eight times more costly. It is only a small step from there to wondering how college costs have gotten so entirely out of line.
There is an important insight in this regard offered recently by Robert Archibald and David Feldman, economists at the College of William and Mary.
In their book, Why Does College Cost So Much?, they point out that colleges and universities are a service industry, and since the end of the Second World War the prices of all service industries have increased. From 1947 to 2006, the real price of durable goods decreased by 67 percent, and the real price of non-durable goods decreased by 17 percent.
Meanwhile, however, the price of services increased by 60 percent.
And those increases were even greater for personal service industries that rely on highly educated providers. If you graph the increases in the costs of seeing a doctor or a dentist, a lawyer or an accountant, or a college professor over that time, they all follow approximately the same upward trajectory. Relative to similar service industries, the price behavior of higher education is not at all unusual.
But all this is of little comfort to the parents of our students—or the students themselves—whom we ask to pay considerable amounts of money for the privilege of attending Johns Hopkins. You can make a strong argument that those core values I mentioned earlier come at a price. Freedom means that both faculty and administration can sometimes set courses that are both wrongheaded and expensive to correct. Meritocracy can mean that by demanding the best we must be able and willing to pay for the best—in faculty, students and facilities. Autonomy is wonderful, but our at-times-chaotic system of higher education in this country allows redundancies and inefficiencies to proliferate and thus increase costs. Surely any government assigned the task of creating an effective and cost-efficient higher education system would recommend something more rational and less genuinely quirky than what we have.
But I have come to believe the chaos is both a curse and a blessing.
On the one hand, lacking a central controlling mechanism, it is hard to imagine any simple actions that can be taken to quickly and universally make higher education more affordable. Yet the blessing of a chaotic system is that it is so diverse and so open to different approaches. Over the long-term, it will foster the experimentation and innovation needed to allow us to address the challenge of cost.
Clayton Christensen is a Harvard Business School professor and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma. Christensen and colleagues have just released a study predicting that new models of instruction are going to reshape the landscape of higher education in the coming decades. They see online education as an emerging disruptive innovation that will dramatically improve both the quality and affordability of instruction .
They looked at higher education and this is what they found: three fundamentally different and incompatible business models all housed within the same organization. Each of the three is trying to achieve three different goals—one part is research, one part is teaching, and the third part is practice, including caring for patients and solving practical problems.
If Christensen and his colleagues are correct, the teaching component, particularly at the basic and early levels, can and will be achieved with higher quality and lower cost through online learning models. This suggests that the traditional residence-based teaching paradigm will no longer be the only way that people get a college education.
I won’t speculate as to whether we are about to see the imminent demise of four years away from Mom and Dad on a college campus—for many Americans an important rite of passage. But Christensen and his colleagues do get at the most basic and fundamental issue at stake. They question exactly what, in our 21st century economy, a college or university education is meant to achieve. This is the question of the hour.
At a commencement address a couple years ago, Brandeis University computer science professor Harry Mairson said that in moments of despair he worries that college has become a modern-day form of papal indulgence, where you pay a small fortune to advance in society and escape its hell .
Maybe some of you remember this television commercial from 40 years ago. A nervous-looking Abe Lincoln sits in a straight-backed office chair at the desk of a job counselor. Lincoln is uncomfortably fingering his stove pipe hat. The job counselor is considering Lincoln’s employment prospects based on his lack of formal education—he’s eating a sandwich, flipping through an oversized Rolodex, and shaking his head in despair. Finally, he offers Lincoln the bad news: “You’re going nowhere without that sheepskin, fella!”
This is what Harry Mairson means when he talks about escaping our society’s hell. His concern is that American colleges and universities—and our elite research universities in particular—are viewed by the public primarily as elaborate and costly credentialing bodies providing tickets to future economic prosperity. You’re going nowhere without that sheepskin!
It’s an age-old concern that has never been adequately answered: how much of a college education is about genuine skills acquisition, and how much is it about merely sorting out the most capable individuals and signaling their social status and acceptability? This is a conundrum that becomes especially pronounced at this time of the year, when the newest generation of college students begins anxiously waiting for word of acceptance or rejection from the colleges of their choice.
The sense that economic opportunity depends on earning a degree has only increased with time and the steady disappearance of secure and good-paying blue collar jobs. Today what we call the college education wage premium—which is the difference in earnings between college-educated and non-college-educated workers—is at an all-time high. The disparity is so great that even for students who use loans to finance all of their tuition it takes only about 11 years to recoup that cost plus the earnings foregone while in school .
And the wage premium is further heightened by a distinct correlation between education and health outcomes, community involvement, and other life patterns. If you have a college degree, you’re more likely to exercise, volunteer, vote and read to your kids, and less likely to be obese or smoke . According to the data, people’s level of education profoundly affects both the financial and non-financial aspects of their lives. Purely at a societal level, we should never forget the wise words of former Harvard president Derek Bok: If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
It is for this reason President Obama has called for the United States to be the most highly college-educated nation by 2020. In the discussion and debate that has followed, almost all of the conversation about higher education is focused on determining how we produce suitable graduates at an acceptable cost—both to society through tax subsidies and programs like the federal Pell Grants, and to students and their families through the cost of tuition.
It is abundantly evident that those benefits come at a cost—and they can be a steep cost as is so clear on the issue of affordability for our students and families. Now here I may be accused of reckless optimism, but I believe that the challenges of affordability are not insurmountable. I would even argue that the solutions to making new higher education opportunities available are beginning to unfold. I think we will see new models evolve that use technology in innovative ways to significantly improve the quality, efficiency, outcomes and affordability of higher education. Many more students will receive the benefits of higher education without spending four years at a residence-based campus, with far greater affordability as the result. And all of our colleges and universities will have to make significant and oftentimes painful choices to control costs and increase student financial support.
But when we ask, At what cost? it is the overall cost to our nation and our society that we must consider. Part of that question is whether we are getting adequate return on the considerable investment we make in higher education.
We are all aware that we have entered a period of nationally constrained finances, and are likely to be here for some time to come. SAIS professor Michael Mandelbaum has offered insightful analysis of what this will mean for our nation’s foreign policy in The Frugal Superpower: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era. Without trying to glibly summarize a complex argument, I think it is fair to say that, in short, constrained finances mean less choice, both in our role as international peace keepers and here at home in setting and meeting domestic priorities. And so the question naturally arises, What expectations and what role will America’s research universities need to fulfill in the future? And what cost should we—and will we—be willing to bear?
Sometimes you hear it said that a provost is just a dean who’s lost his or her faculties.
Sometimes I think it’s true!
But one thing this position does is give you a unique vantage point to observe the functioning and foibles of a university. It allows you to look at things from 30,000 feet and take in the big picture.
From that perspective, when I think about the challenges our universities will be asked to address in the next two decades, certain overarching topics and themes emerge. These are the big challenges, such as sustainable energy and the environment; the global water crisis; the promise of individualized health; the challenge of an urbanizing world.
At 30,000 feet, two things become evident. First, these are immensely complex and challenging problems that will not be resolved with a simple solution or a silver bullet. And second, it is the modern research university that is uniquely equipped to grapple with these challenges and find viable solutions.
If the 19th century was about categorizing all that was known in the world, the 20th century was about filling those categories almost to overflowing with data. Just one example of many is the work of Johns Hopkins astrophysicist Alex Szalay. Although Alex usually spends his time studying the vast expanse of the cosmos, his pioneering work in the science of information has become transformational. Alex is the archivist for the Cosmic Genome Project. When the project started work in 2000, it collected more data in its first few weeks than had been amassed in the entire history of astronomy . It is a category overflowing with data. Prior to the Cosmic Genome, astronomers had to wait for use of a telescope in order to do their research and hope for a clear night sky. But now astronomers can focus on finding relationships and patterns in data that has already been collected and made accessible. Alex is hardly alone in harnessing the power of data to gain new insights and understanding. Innovative initiatives are being carried out through collaborations that involve every school and division of Johns Hopkins University.
And this is what points to the role of the research university in the 21st century—our task and our unique contribution lie in turning information into knowledge. We will do this by bringing multiple disciplines together to take up profoundly complex issues that can be solved no other way.
In the 21st century we can no longer enjoy the luxury of being the MULTIversities that University of California chancellor Clark Kerr once joked were separate and distinct faculties united only by a common heating plant and a shared grievance over parking . We must realize the vision of being a true UNIversity—where the many realms of knowledge unite to solve humanity’s greatest challenges.
At Johns Hopkins, President Ron Daniels has continually challenged our schools and scholars to reach beyond the boundaries of their disciplines to gain new insights to new challenges. He has asked that we each look for ways to make the whole of Johns Hopkins greater than the sum of its parts. He asks that we all become true university citizens.
Let me end with a prediction. As the national debate about budgets and taxation and spending priorities claims more and more of our attention, we will see a tendency of the media to report on higher education like baseball—who won, who lost, what are the statistics? It will be dollars in budgets slashed, programs dismantled or saved, tuition costs and faculty tenure. We are already seeing this in the news every day as the President and Congress square off for budget battles and the reporting increasingly takes on the tone of war correspondence from the front lines. But to quote Herbert Baxter Adams an early Johns Hopkins faculty member and founder of the American Historical Association, “History is past Politics, and Politics present History.”
One way or another, starting now and moving forward into the coming years, we’re going to be making history. This is the real story, but it will mostly be occurring at a different level than what you read in the papers every day. The real story will be about the challenge that we will face to our core academic principles of autonomy, freedom and meritocracy. The history will be made in how we choose to respond. Will we draw lessons and courage from the deep wellspring of our academic heritage? Or will we rely on tactical maneuvering and near-term solutions to preserve an increasingly unwieldy status quo?
The temptations to compromise our principles will only become stronger as cost and budget pressures increase. Right now England is undergoing a whole-scale reexamination of how to finance their system of higher education in the wake of the Browne Report, which contains the recommendations of a review panel chaired by Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP. With images of student protests, the media has focused on the dramatic increase in the tuition cap that passed both Houses of Parliament. Driving this, however, is an underlying reorientation of English higher education to a market mentality . Such an orientation imagines students as consumers who attend college to maximize their future earning potential. Gone is the opportunity—and unrecognized is the importance—to explore; to follow an educational thread because passion takes you there; to muster your mental resources and march them resolutely off the map of what is already known.
If we lose those things, we run the danger of losing the real value of higher education.
Here in America, we will soon enough face similar proposals and pressures. Our challenge will be to turn our strengths of analysis and discourse on ourselves to find ways to address legitimate concerns without compromising the very values that have made us who we are.
Today and in the days ahead we will be hearing a lot about the politics of cost. I would argue that the present history we make will be a history of our own choosing. There is a very real danger that we might mistakenly agree to violate these principles ourselves. There will be powerful incentives to trade autonomy for more restrictive funding; to exchange freedom for certain forms of business and corporate support; to subvert meritocracy in order to appease political correctness. The challenge before us is to conserve finances and balance budgets; but the real test will be in how we sustain, nurture and protect the bedrock values that brought us so far and promise so much in the years to come.
I did not come here today to offer a prescriptive policy proposal. And I do not seek to misrepresent the critics of our higher education system who may have profoundly different opinions about the value of our contributions and the legitimate cost of what we do. Rather, I want to start a conversation, because ultimately we will need to forge a new great consensus about the role and value and importance of our research universities in the years ahead.
To that end, I thank you for your attention, and I would welcome the opportunity to move the conversation forward at this time by answering your questions.
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