Enterprise IT architect certifications appear most often at the apex of certification programs, where less than 1% of IT professionals ultimately ascend. Even so, many IT architect certifications are available, and you don’t need to invest in one certification sponsor’s vision to reach the top.
Many IT certifications in this area fall outside vendor umbrellas, which means they are vendor-neutral or vendor-agnostic. Nevertheless, the number of vendor-specific IT certifications exceeds vendor-neutral ones by a factor of more than 2 to 1. That’s why we devote the last section of this article to all such credentials, as we encountered them in search of the best enterprise architect certifications.
For IT pros who’ve already invested in vendor-specific certification programs, credentials at the architect level may indeed be worth pursuing. Enterprise architects are among the highest-paid employees and consultants in the tech industry.
Enterprise architects are technical experts who are able to analyze and assess organizational needs, make recommendations regarding technology changes, and design and implement those changes across the organization.
The national average salary per SimplyHired is $130,150, in a range from $91,400 to a whopping $185,330. Glassdoor reports $133,433 as the average. Ultimately, the value of any IT certification depends on how long the individual has worked and in what part of the IT patch.
Becoming an enterprise architect is not easy. While the requirements may vary by employer, most enterprise architects have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a computer-related field along with 5-10 years of professional work experience. Many enterprise architects obtain additional certifications past graduation.
Certifications are a great way to demonstrate to prospective employers that you have the experience and technical skills necessary to do the job and give you a competitive edge in the hiring process. Certification holders also frequently earn more than their uncertified counterparts, making certifications a valuable career-building tool.
Below, you’ll find our top five certification picks. Before you peruse our best picks, check out the results of our informal job board survey. Data indicates the number of job posts in which our featured certifications were mentioned on a given day. The data should give you an idea of the relative popularity of each of these certifications.
|AWS Certified Solution Architect (Amazon Web Services)||1,035||464||2,672||240||4,411|
|ITIL Master (Axelos)||641||848||1,218||1,119||3,826|
|TOGAF 9 (The Open Group)||443||730||271||358||1,802|
|Zachman Certified – Enterprise Architect (Zachman)||86||107||631||252||1,076|
Making its first appearance on the leaderboard is the Certified Solutions Architect credential from Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS, an Amazon subsidiary, is the global leader in on-demand cloud computing. AWS offers numerous products and services to support its customers, including the popular Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). AWS also offers numerous cloud applications and developer tools, including Amazon Comprehend, Amazon SageMaker Batch Transform and Amazon Lightsail.
AWS offers certifications at the foundation, associate and professional levels across five role-based categories: architect, developer, operations, cloud and specialty certifications. Foundation-level certifications validate a candidate’s understanding of the AWS Cloud and serve as a prerequisite to AWS specialty certifications. Foundation certifications are a recommended starting place for those seeking higher-level credentials.
Associate credentials typically have no prerequisites and focus on technical skills. They are required to obtain professional-level certifications, which are the highest level of technical certification available. Specialty certs, meanwhile, focus on skills in targeted areas.
AWS currently offers the following credentials:
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect credential is available at the associate and professional levels. The associate credential targets candidates with at least one year of experience architecting and implementing solutions based on AWS applications and technologies. AWS updated the associate-level exam in February 2018 to include architecture best practices and new services.
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certification targets senior AWS architects who can architect, design, implement and manage complex enterprise-level AWS solutions based on defined organizational requirements. Candidates should have a minimum of two years’ direct experience deploying and designing on the AWS cloud and be able to translate organizational requirements into solutions and recommend best practices. The associate credential is a mandatory prerequisite.
|Certification name||Certified Solution Architect – Associate
Certified Solution Architect – Professional
|Prerequisites and required courses||Associate: One year of hands-on experience recommended, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
Professional: Certified Solution Architect – Associate credential plus a minimum of two years of hands-on experience
|Number of exams||Associate: One exam (65 questions, 130 minutes to complete)
Professional: One exam (170 minutes to complete)
|Certification fees||Associate: $150 (practice exam $20)
Professional: $300 (practice exam $40)
|Self-study materials||AWS makes sample questions, practice exams, exam guides, whitepapers and more available on the certification home page.|
CTA: Certified Technical Architect
In 1999, Salesforce revolutionized the world of CRM when it introduced the concept of using the cloud to provide top-notch CRM software. Today, Salesforce has more than 150,000 customers, making it the industry leader for CRM enterprise cloud platforms. Currently, Salesforce offers solutions for various focus areas, including sales, service, marketing, commerce, engagement, community, productivity (Quip), platform and ecosystem, integration, analytics, enablement, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, mobility, and industry (financial and health).
To meet industry needs for qualified and experienced professionals with the skills necessary to support its growing customer base, Salesforce developed and maintains a top-tier certification program. It offers many paths to candidates, including for administration, app building, architecture and marketing.
Salesforce Architect certifications are hierarchical, with most (but not all) lower-level credentials serving as prerequisites for more advanced credentials. At the top of the certification pyramid is the highest credential a Salesforce professional can earn – the Certified Technical Architect (CTA), which is our featured Salesforce certification.
The Salesforce Architect certification pyramid has three levels:
Salesforce requires CTAs to maintain current skills. Credential holders must pass maintenance module exams with each new product release cycle (typically in summer, winter and spring). While challenging to earn, the CTA is important for IT professionals who are serious about a Salesforce technologies career.
|Certification name||Certified Technical Architect (CTA)|
|Prerequisites and required courses||Salesforce Certified Application Architect and Salesforce Certified System Architect credential:
|Number of exams||One exam (four hours to complete; candidates must formulate, justify and present recommendations based on a hypothetical scenario to a review board)|
Retake fee: $3,000
|Self-study materials||Salesforce maintains links on the certification webpage to numerous review materials, including the online documentation, tip sheets, user guides, exam guide and outline, Architect Journey e-books, Trailhead trails, and the Salesforce Certification Guide.|
ITIL Master Certificate – IT Service Management
One of our favorite credential sets (and for employers as well, judging by job board numbers) is the ITIL for IT Service Management credentials from Axelos. Axelos is a global provider of standards designed to drive best practices and quality throughout organizations. ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) joined the Axelos family in 2013.
Axelos manages ITIL credentialing requirements and updates, provides accreditation to Examination Institutes (EIs), and licenses organizations seeking to use ITIL. In addition to ITIL certifications, Axelos offers credentials for Prince2 2017 (which includes Foundation, Practitioner and Agile qualifications), Prince2 Agile, Resilia, MSP, MoP, M_o_R, P30, MoV, P3M3 and AgileSHIFT.
ITIL is a set of well-defined and well-respected best practices that specifically target the area of IT service management. There are more than 2 million ITIL-certified practitioners worldwide. ITIL is perhaps the most widely known and globally adopted set of best practices and management tools for IT service management and support.
Axelos maintains a robust ITIL certification portfolio consisting of five ITIL credentials:
Axelos introduced ITIL 4 in early 2019. ITIL 3 practitioners should check the Axelos website frequently for updates about the transition to ITIL 4 and availability of the ITIL 4 transition modules.
The ITIL Master is the pinnacle ITIL certification, requiring experience, dedication, and a thorough understanding of ITIL principles, practices, and techniques. To gain the ITIL Master designation, candidates must have at least five years of managerial, advisory or other leadership experience in the field of IT service management. They must also possess the ITIL Expert certification. Once the skill and certification requirements are met, the real certification work begins.
Upon completing the prerequisites, candidates must register with PeopleCert, the sole approved Axelos Examination Institute, and submit an application. Next, candidates prepare and submit a proposal for a business improvement to implement within their organization. The proposal submission is followed by a “work package,” which documents a real-world project that encompasses multiple ITIL areas.
The work package (1) validates how the candidate applied ITIL principles, practices, and techniques to the project; and (2) documents the effectiveness of the solution and the ultimate benefit the business received as a result of the ITIL solution. Finally, candidates must pass an interview with an assessment panel where they defend their solution.
Axelos will soon be sponsoring 50 lucky people in their quest to obtain the ITIL 4 Master certification. You can register your interest in the program here.
|Certification name||ITIL Master Certificate – IT Service Management|
|Prerequisites and required courses||ITIL Expert Certificate: Five years of IT service experience in managerial, leadership or advisory roles|
|Number of exams||No exam required, but candidates must complete the following steps:
|Certification fees||$4,440 if all ITIL credits obtained through PeopleCert
$5,225 if some ITIL credits were obtained from other institutes
|Self-study materials||Axelos provides documentation to guide candidates in the preparation of proposal and work package submissions. Available documents include ITIL Master FAQs, ITIL Master Proposal Requirements and Scope, and ITIL Master Work Package Requirements and Scope.|
A leader in enterprise architecture, The Open Group’s standards and certifications are globally recognized. The TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) standard for enterprise architecture is popular among leading enterprise-level organizations. Currently, TOGAF is the development and architecture framework of choice for more than 80% of global enterprises.
TOGAF’s popularity reflects that the framework standard is specifically geared to all aspects of enterprise-level IT architectures, with an emphasis on building efficiency within an organization. The scope of the standard’s approach covers everything from design and planning stages to implementation, maintenance, and governance.
The Open Group offers several enterprise architect credentials, including TOGAF, Open CA, ArchiMate, IT4IT and the foundational Certified Technical Specialist (Open CTS).
The Open Group reports that there are more than 75,000 TOGAF-certified enterprise architects. At present, there are two TOGAF credentials: the TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1) and TOGAF 9 Certified (Level 2). (The TOGAF framework is currently based on version 9.2, although the credential name still reflects version 9.)
The TOGAF 9 Foundation, or Level 1, credential targets architects who demonstrate an understanding of TOGAF principles and standards. A single exam is required to earn the Level 1 designation. The Level 1 exam focuses on TOGAF-related concepts such as TOGAF reference models, terminology, core concepts, standards, ADM, architectural governance and enterprise architecture. The Level 1 credential serves as a steppingstone to the more advanced TOGAF Level 2 certification.
The TOGAF 9 Certified, or Level 2, credential incorporates all requirements for Level 1. Level 2 TOGAF architects possess in-depth knowledge of TOGAF standards and principles and can apply them to organizational goals and enterprise-level infrastructure. To earn this designation, candidates must first earn the Level 1 credential and pass the Level 2 exam. The Level 2 exam covers TOGAF concepts such as ADM phases, governance, content framework, building blocks, stakeholder management, metamodels, TOGAF techniques, reference models and ADM iterations.
Candidates wanting a fast track to Level 2 certification may take a combination exam, which covers requirements for both Level 1 and 2. Training is not mandatory for either credential but is highly recommended. Training classes run 2-5 days, depending on the provider and whether you’re taking the combined or single-level course. The Open Group maintains a list of approved training providers and a schedule of current training opportunities on the certification webpage.
|Certification name||TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1)
TOGAF 9 Certified (Level 2)
|Prerequisites and required courses||TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1): None
TOGAF 9 Certified (Level 2): TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1) credential
|Number of exams||Level 1: One exam (40 questions, 60 minutes, 55% required to pass)
Level 2: One exam (eight questions, 90 minutes)
Level 1 and 2 combined exam (48 questions, 2.5 hours)
|Certification fees||$320 each for Level 1 and Level 2 exams
$495 for combined Level 1 and Level 2 exam
Exams are administered by Pearson VUE. Some training providers include the exam with the training course.
|Self-study materials||A number of resources are available from The Open Group, including whitepapers, webinars, publications, TOGAF standards, the TOGAF Foundation Study Guide ($29.95 for PDF; includes practice exam), VCE exam (99 cents for PDF) and the TOGAF 9 Certified Study Guide (a combined study guide is available for $59.95). The Open Group also maintains a list of accredited training course providers and a calendar of training events.|
Zachman Certified – Enterprise Architect
Founded in 1990, Zachman International promotes education and research for enterprise architecture and the Zachman Framework. Rather than being a traditional process or methodology, the Zachman Framework is more accurately referred to as an “ontology.” Ontologies differ from a traditional methodology or process in that, rather than focusing on the process or implementation, they focus on the properties, types and interrelationships of entities that exist within a particular domain. The Zachman Framework ontology focuses on the structure, or definition, of the object and the enterprise. Developed by John Zachman, this framework sets a standard for enterprise architecture ontology.
Zachman International currently offers four enterprise architect credentials:
Zachman credentials are valid for three years. To maintain these credentials, candidates must earn continuing education credits (referred to as EADUs). The total number of EADUs required varies by certification level.
|Certification name||Enterprise Architect Associate Certification (Level 1)
Enterprise Architect Practitioner Certification (Level 2)
Enterprise Architect Professional Certification (Level 3)
Enterprise Architect Educator Certification (Level 4)
|Prerequisites and required courses||Level 1 Associate: Four-day Modeling Workshop ($3,499)
Level 2 Practitioner: None
Level 3 Professional: None
Level 4 Educator: Review all materials related to The Zachman Framework; Level 3 Professional recommended
|Number of exams||Level 1 Associate: One exam
Level 2 Practitioner: No exam; case studies and referee review required
Level 3 Professional: No exam; case studies and referee review required
Level 4 Educator: None; must develop and submit curriculum and course materials for review and validation
|Certification fees||Level 1 Associate: exam fee included as part of required course
Level 2 Practitioner: None, included as part of Level 1 required course
Level 3 Professional: Not available
Level 4 Educator: Not available
|Self-study materials||Live classroom and distance learning opportunities are available. Zachman also offers webcasts, a glossary, the Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture and reference articles.|
Beyond the top 5: More enterprise architect certifications
The Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA) is a great credential, especially for professionals working with Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from PMI continues to appear in many enterprise architect job descriptions. Although the PMP is not an enterprise architect certification per se, many employers look for this particular combination of skills.
Outside of our top five vendor-neutral enterprise architect certifications (which focus on more general, heterogeneous views of IT systems and solutions), there are plenty of architect-level certifications from a broad range of vendors and sponsors, most of which are vendor-specific.
The table below identifies those vendors and sponsors, names their architect-level credentials, and provides links to more information on those offerings. Choosing one or more of these certifications for research and possible pursuit will depend on where you work or where you’d like to work.
<td”>EMC Cloud Architect Expert (EMCCAe) <td”>GoCertify </td”></td”>
|Sponsor||Enterprise architect certification||More information|
|BCS||BCS Practitioner Certificate in Enterprise and Solutions Architecture||BCS homepage|
|Cisco||Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr)||CCAr homepage|
|Enterprise Architecture Center of Excellence (EACOE)||EACOE Enterprise Architect
EACOE Senior Enterprise Architect
EACOE Distinguished Enterprise Architect EACOE Enterprise Architect Fellow
|EACOE Architect homepage|
|FEAC Institute||Certified Enterprise Architect (CEA) Black Belt
Associate Certified Enterprise Architect (ACEA) Green Belt
|FEAC CEA homepage|
|Hitachi Vantara||Hitachi Architect (three tracks: Infrastructure, Data Protection, and Pentaho Solutions)
Hitachi Architect Specialist (two tracks: Infrastructure and Converged)
|Training & Certification homepage|
|IASA||Certified IT Architect – Foundation (CITA-F)
Certified IT Architect – Associate (CITA-A)
Certified IT Architect – Specialist (CITA-S)
Certified IT Architect – Professional (CITA-P)
|National Instruments||Certified LabVIEW Architect (CLA)||CLA homepage|
|Nokia||Nokia Service Routing Architect (SRA)||SRA homepage|
|Oracle||Oracle Certified Master, Java EE Enterprise Architect Certified Master||Java EE homepage|
|Red Hat||Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)||RHCA homepage|
|SOA (Arcitura)||Certified SOA Architect||SOA Architect homepage|
These architect credentials typically represent pinnacle certifications within the programs to which they belong, functioning as high-value capstones to those programs in many cases. The group of individuals who attain such credentials is often quite small but comes with tight sponsor relationships, high levels of sponsor support and information delivery, and stratospheric salaries and professional kudos.
Often, such certifications provide deliberately difficult and challenging targets for a small, highly select group of IT professionals. Earning one or more of these certifications is generally the culmination of a decade or more of professional growth, high levels of effort, and considerable expense. No wonder, then, that architect certifications are highly regarded by IT pros and highly valued by their employers.
Enterprise architect credentials will often be dictated by choices that your employer (or industry sector, in the case of government or DoD-related work environments) have already made independent of your own efforts. Likewise, most of the vendor-specific architecture credentials make sense based on what’s deployed in your work environment or in a job you’d like to occupy.
Though there are lots of potential choices IT pros could make, the actual number they can or should make will be influenced by their circumstances.
These thoughtful questions will help you get even closer.
2023 is going to be the year of deep friendship—we just know it. Whether you’re reconnecting with your best friends, chilling with the squad or even meeting someone new, it can be helpful to have a few interesting, deep questions to ask your friends when you're bored that you can bring up in your conversations.
This fun list of friend conversation questions can help you reignite closer relationships with your friends and pals. Choose a few to ask at a gathering, a party or in a group text and see what new things you learn about the person or people you’re with. You may even have to answer a few questions yourself!
These 100 questions to ask your friends when you're bored are perfect for the days when you’re meeting up with people you haven’t talked to in a while, friends you’re looking to get to know better or even people that you’re just meeting for the first time. They can also be great ways to mix up any average conversation.
In 2023, we’re all just looking to reconnect and talk with each other more, and this fun list of questions to ask your friends can be a great way to start. Check out the full list of questions below, and don’t forget to think up a few answers for yourself as well!
1. What's your hidden talent?
2. What are three of your favorite dog names of all time?
3. Do you believe in reincarnation?
4. What’s your dream car?
5. Who was the last person that made you cry, and why?
6. What's your go-to ice cream flavor?
7. What was your first impression of me?
8. What's your favorite ice breaker question?
9. What are you passionate about?
10. What's something you hope will never change?
11. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, which food would you pick?
12. What’s your best memory so far this year?
13. How many things have you crossed off your bucket list?
14. What words make you cringe whenever you hear them?
15. Who has influenced you the most?
16. What do you think the happiest color is?
17. What parts of your life would say are "perfect" just the way they are now?
Related: 250 Deep Questions To Ask
18. What’s your biggest regret?
19. Which celebrity do you wish you could be friends with?
20. If you could live in someone else's shoes for a day, who would you pick and why?
21. What's your biggest stress right now?
22. Do you read your horoscope?
23. What's your most embarrassing moment?
24. When you're in a bad mood, how do you deal with it?
25. If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
26. What did you dream about last night?
27. Do you have a favorite parent?
28. Do you believe we would be better off if we didn't have social media?
29. How long do you think a couple should date before getting married?
30. What's a song you know every word of?
31. Do you believe in ghosts?
32. Which planet would you visit if you could go to any of them?
33. What's something you would do differently if you had the chance?
34. Have you ever had to look after an elderly or sick relative?
35. What is one quality about yourself that you are most proud of?
36. What's something that always makes you smile?
37. What's one skill you'd love to master?
38. What household chore do you hate the most?
39. Where would you go if you had to pack your stuff and relocate to another country tomorrow?
40. Are you a registered voter?
41. What would you say if someone asked you for a random piece of advice?
42. Which website do you visit the most?
43. What's your favorite family-friendly board game?
44. What is the worst thing you've ever smelled?
45. How old were you when you found out Santa isn't real?
Related: 250 Truth or Dare Questions
46. What's the weirdest fact you've ever heard?
47. What would you do if you could do anything for the rest of your life?
48. Are you scared of dying?
49. If you found out I was going to die tomorrow, what's the last thing you would say to me?
50. Out of all the holidays, which one is your favorite?
51. What's your favorite charity and why?
52. What's your Enneagram personality type?
53. If someone offered you the chance to go to outer space, would you go?
54. Do you enjoy going to museums?
55. What type of animal are you most excited to see when you go to the zoo?
56. If you had an alter ego, what would its name be?
57. What would you do if you won a million dollars?
58. Which instrument would you play if you were in a rock band?
59. What was your favorite toy as a kid?
60. Who's your celebrity crush?
61. What's one side hustle idea you'd love to start?
62. What's your favorite season, and why?
63. What book have you read that's made a serious impact on your life?
64. Do you believe in freedom of speech?
Related: 250 Questions to Ask a Guy
65. What’s the first thing you do after waking up in the morning?
66. What's something that takes up way too much of your time?
67. What’s the longest amount of time you've gone without sleeping?
68. What's the best beauty advice you've ever heard?
69. What's the best gift you’ve ever received?
70. Are there any totally wacky food combos you love that most people think are weird?
71. Have you ever broken a bone?
72. Do you think there's life on other planets?
73. What's your favorite fashion trend right now?
74. If you had a superpower, what would it be?
75. What is the first thing you notice about a person when you meet them?
76. How old do you think you'll live to be?
77. What's your favorite thing to do when bored?
78. What's your biggest pet peeve?
79. What’s the most useful life hack you’ve learned from YouTube?
80. Which of your friends influences you the most?
81. How many kids do you want?
82. Do you follow any pets on Instagram?
83. What are some goals you'd like to accomplish by the time you're 50?
84. If you had to pick three words to describe yourself, what would they be?
85. What's your favorite cake and icing flavor combo?
86. If a genie gave you three wishes, what would you ask for?
87. Which old-school Disney movie is your favorite?
88. Do you prefer Coke or Pepsi?
89. What's your dream beach vacation destination?
90. Do you know how to do any magic tricks?
91. If your name wasn't ______, what new first name would you choose for yourself?
92. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?
93. Where do you think you'll be and what do you think you'll be doing exactly 24 hours from now?
94. What's something weird you do when no one else is around?
95. What's your love language?
96. What's the cutest dog breed of all time?
97. What's the worst lie you've ever told?
98. What age do you wish you could stay forever?
99. What's your favorite kind of flower?
100. What's the most useless invention you've ever heard of?
Next, 250 Would You Rather Questions
Answers to all four riddle quests.
Persona 4 Golden has quite a few side quests, with 'Who's the Riddle Master', 'Riddle Senpai Returns', 'Revenge of Riddle Senpai', and 'Riddle Senpai's Encore' asking you to give the correct answers to complete them.
You'll get some helpful rewards for completing all of these optional quests, so we've detailed the correct answers to the 'Funky Student' riddles in Persona 4 Golden below.
For more help, we've also got pages on test answers and an explainer on how to raise all Social Stats.
On this page:
After 18th April, the 'Funky Student' on the school's third floor balcony will have an icon over his head, meaning he has a side quest for you!
Unlike most side quests in the beginning of the game, he doesn't want you to fetch an item. Instead, he wants you to solve a riddle.
The student will list various colours, telling you they're part of the 'A' and 'B' categories, then you must decide what category the colour black goes into. Don't feel bad if you can't solve the riddle, as it's a ridiculously tough one to work out!
Here's the correct riddle answers for 'Who's the Riddle Master' in Persona 4 Golden:
For giving the correct answers to his riddle, you'll get x3 Chest Keys as a reward, which you can use to open gold chests inside dungeons.
As long as you've completed the 'Who's the Riddle Master' side quest, when you return to the student on the third floor balcony after 2nd September he'll have two more riddles for you to solve - and they're just as hard as the first.
Here's the correct answers for the first 'Riddle Senpai Returns' riddle in Persona 4 Golden:
Finally, here's the correct answers for the second 'Riddle Senpai Returns' riddle in Persona 4 Golden:
For giving the correct answers to these riddles, you'll get a Snuff Soul as a reward, which you can use to restore 50SP.
As long as you've completed the 'Riddle Senpai Returns' side quest, when you return to the student on the third floor balcony after 12th November he'll have another two complicated riddles for you.
Here's the correct answers for the first 'Revenge of Riddle Senpai' riddle in Persona 4 Golden:
Finally, here's the correct answers for the second 'Revenge of Riddle Senpai' riddle in Persona 4 Golden:
For giving the correct answers to these riddles, you'll get a Chewing Soul as a reward, which you can use to restore 100SP.
As long as you've completed the 'Revenge of Riddle Senpai' side quest, when you return to the student on the third floor balcony after 10th January he'll ask you one final riddle.
Here's the correct riddle answer for 'Riddle Senpai's Encore' in Persona 4 Golden:
You'll get x3 Soul Food as a reward for giving the correct answer, which you can use to fully restore SP.
For more help in Persona 4 Golden, check out our pages on test answers and Social Stats.
Federal security officials determined that the last election was secure, but cyber threats continue to evolve and election doubters have seized upon even simple equipment glitches and operational hiccups — like a printer mishap — to question results.
Open source software projects publish their source code under licenses that allow anyone to review and use it. Typically, volunteers develop and propose code modifications, like bug fixes and new features, to be considered for incorporation into the software.
“Generally, in an open source project, more people have access to view the code, which can lead to the discovery of vulnerabilities in the code sooner,” San Francisco stated in a 2018 assessment on the feasibility of the city creating its own open source voting system.
But malicious actors can view the code just like anyone else, and these projects must be ready.
Researchers, nonprofits, several counties and others have explored open source election solutions over the past decades. They’ve seen this as a way to introduce new ideas and features not currently available from commercial systems, add transparency and potentially reduce governments’ expenses.
Uptake has been limited, however. For example, Travis County, Texas, completed design of its STAR-Vote project in 2017 but was unable to get a vendor to produce it. Prime III — a university professor-developed accessible voting system released as open source in 2015 — is today only used in one county, despite successful performances in several jurisdictions.
Proprietary software still dominates the market, although some open source projects continue to push forward.
As they do, they’ll need to tackle questions over the best approach to safely launching and maintaining the projects and whether such offerings can gain traction.
Part one of this two-part series looks at the security concerns and practices at play in open source election projects, while part two examines what it may take for government and vendors to adopt the offerings.
That is a question the U.S. military research branch, DARPA, is currently trying to answer.
Its SocialCyber program aims to examine threats to open source projects, which may be cyber or social in nature. Bad actors might attempt to insert back doors into the software, use influence campaigns to manipulate the communities that maintain the projects or even take over leadership of those communities, per MIT Review. And open source projects that rely on only a handful of contributors could theoretically collapse if one or two drop out.
“The DoD’s [Department of Defense’s] use of OSS [open source software] saves cost, increases maintainability and attracts developer talent, but also creates an unprecedented attack surface, in which many trusted software parts and paths are exposed to hostile manipulation,” wrote DARPA’s Bratus.
Many open source election software projects look to avoid relying entirely on the energy and interest of volunteers and emphasize carefully vetting their work.
The City and County of San Francisco
San Francisco has been exploring replacing its electronic voting machines with an open source solution. Its 2018 feasibility assessment weighs various approaches and suggests the city and hired contractors build the initial code. The city would only later look to the open source community for new feature contributions, after a “workable offering gets off the ground” and after the city has fostered a community around the project that has “been proven to be engaged and reliable.”
The city could partner with an existing open source voting group and should hire an open source program manager to “focus on evangelism to grow the community, communication with the community and community structure and operations,” the assessment proposed. A separate professional could focus on considering and incorporating community contributions and creating documentation.
OSET, too, has paid professionals overseeing its projects, to keep them on track and maintained. The organization also follows a risk management framework based on NIST standards for vetting both contributed code and code being publicly released.
And its work isn’t entirely in the public eye: about a third of the institute’s work is publicly available on GitHub, where anyone can submit contributions for consideration. The rest of the work, however, takes place in a private, “far more controlled” developer environment, Miller told Government Technology.
Would-be contributors must pass a vetting process that includes an FBI background check before they can get involved in any of the projects that could be used for election administration. Tools for activities like checking one’s voting registration status, meanwhile, require less clearance.
That high barrier to entry is unusual for the open source community, but necessary if government is to trust the offerings, Miller said. The organization has encountered threats in the past.
“On more than one occasion, we have had a developer who was making great contributions to the code base turn out to be somebody that the FBI informed us was not an individual that we should be working with,” he said. In one case, a participant was found to be “shuttling information abroad.” In another, the FBI discovered that a paid engineer had misrepresented their location and was accepting payments in a sanctioned country.
“I was brought in to the FBI. And I was shown who the person actually is,” Miller said. “It was jolting.”
Los Angeles County
Los Angeles County built its voting system using open source codebases and is seeking approval to release the system as open source, County Registrar Dean Logan told GovTech.
Should Los Angeles County publish its code, it intends to keep tabs on who engages. Those seeking to view or propose changes to the code would need to submit a “simple online application” form listing details like the person or entity’s name and reason for accessing the code, per the most latest “Preliminary Conditional Implementation Plan.” A team would review the requests, verify the user and make a record of their application information.
Another protective measure against malicious actors: California’s security and certification framework for voting systems “require[s] us, prior to any election, to escrow our code and also to certify a hash version of the software that we're using in the election with the Secretary of State, so they can match it against the code that's in escrow.” Logan said. “There is documentation and transparency to demonstrate that there hasn't been anything malicious introduced into the code since it was certified and tested. And that, while people might have access to view the codebase itself, they don't have access to get in and make changes to the code — at least not to the version of the code that's being used in the active elections.”
DARPA’s Bratus warned that projects’ polices around how bugs are reported could present further risks.
“For OSS projects that take the stance of not publicly distinguishing between exploitable bugs and functional bugs, adversaries may glean critical information before mitigations are completed, and interfere with the mitigations,” Bratus wrote.
Microsoft-sponsored open source software development kit (SDK) ElectionGuard addresses such concerns. The project site asks the community to report only “performance or feature bugs” in public GitHub comments and to follow separate restrictions for reporting discovered security vulnerabilities.
“The goal of the voting system is not to convince the winner that they've won. The goal of a voting system is to convince the loser and their supporters that they've lost fair and square,” Miller said. Switching from proprietary software to open source is trading “a black box” for “a glass box.”
“As long as you have opacity or obsolescence, you give fuel — you give oxygen — to the deniers to make the argument that the system can't be trusted,” Miller said.
But open source projects must still be ready in case rumors pop up. For example, they should be prepared to communicate in case a bug discovery gets blown out of proportion, said L.A. County’s Logan.
Bad actors may try to “create a perception of vulnerability, or a perception of a security risk, that may or may not exist,” Logan said. “But once somebody puts that out there, it puts us in a defensive stance, which could create issues of public trust and confidence in the voting system.”
Dana DeBeauvoir is a member of OSET Institute’s board of directors and previously led the creation of STAR-Vote in her former role as Travis County Clerk.
Politicians and the general public at times cast doubt even on third-party audits of election systems. But making a system both open source and auditable can change that dynamic by putting so many eyes on the process that its results are harder to dispute, DeBeauvoir said.
“If it wasn’t your auditor, your friend, doing the audit, then nobody believed you,” DeBeauvoir said. But with open source, “if 1,000 eyes are all seeing the same thing, then it's a little hard to say that there's something wrong with it, or that it's hiding some Trojan problem or that it's inadequate, or incompetent in some way … a reasonable person could not question it.”
For example, his company is preparing to pilot a voting registration database security system. The system tracks changes to voter rolls in a distributed ledger, to provide an immutable record that can be checked against claims of problems, such as duplicate votes and votes by dead people.
Miller said open source groups have greater freedom to invest in exploring new election administration ideas than do commercial vendors, because the latter are too constrained by the need to quickly demonstrate returns on investment and meet other commercial pressures.
“Innovation thrives unbridled, in the absence of restrictive commercial mandates,” Miller said.
Still, financial concerns are inescapable, especially for open source projects that avoid full reliance on volunteers. OSET Institute, for example, needs to raise millions of dollars to enable finishing and certifying its in-the-works open source software framework in time for the 2026 elections, Miller said.
And designing a secure offering is only one piece of the puzzle. Getting it used is a whole other question.
Jurisdictions need to be prepared to obtain and use the open source offerings or vendors need to take up the open source code and provide it to jurisdictions in a ready-to-go way.
Dr. Juan Gilbert is chair of the University of Florida’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Department and first developed Prime III in 2003, before releasing it as open source in 2015.
But Gilbert said that the security debate around open source is “irrelevant. You don't even get to that conversation,” he told GovTech.
In his experience, even if the software works well, vendors haven’t been eager to embrace it and, too often, other factors have discouraged jurisdictions directly using the open source offerings.
What challenges can hold back jurisdictions from engaging with open source projects, what are the chances vendors will pick up these offerings and can open source tech still Boost the election landscape, even if they don’t get made?
Stay tuned for Part 2.
CHEYENNE—Members of a working group created by Gov. Mark Gordon to “disseminate information” and “act as a sounding board for the public and stakeholders” regarding Colorado River Compact issues reported Monday mounting public frustration about access to information.
The Colorado River Working Group, formed in 2021, essentially acts as a consulting body and communications conduit between water users in the Green River and Little Snake River basins and the State Engineer’s Office.
At a meeting of the group on Monday members said constituents are confused. Members also reported fielding complaints from stakeholders who can’t get the information they need to stay abreast of the fast-moving and complex course that stands to impact water users in the state.
At the same meeting, State Engineer Brandon Gebhart insisted the body isn’t subject to the state’s open meetings laws and said he’s hesitant to take questions from the public during working group meetings. Though Monday’s meeting was open to the public — as were six previous meetings — none have been live-streamed or otherwise made available to anyone not in attendance, according to the engineer’s office.
That’s by design, according to Gebhart.
“I’m a little concerned that if we start one of these [live-streamed presentations] that we wouldn’t get through any of the courses before the questions start coming in,” Gebhart told working group members. In a follow-up with WyoFile Tuesday, Gebhart added, “My general concern about doing public webinars is being unable to get through the numerous and complex courses we need to cover if we get slowed down by multiple public questions.”
The working group’s meetings are intended to hash out information and discuss how to disseminate it with water users, Gebhart said. The group’s outreach is primarily done directly between the group’s members and their constituents.
Though there was no formal call for public comments or questions at the Monday meeting, members of the working group, SEO and the attorney general’s office did field some questions from members of the public in attendance.
The main course of discussion Monday was how the SEO is scrambling to entice eligible water users to take part in a conservation program that pays them to voluntarily leave water in streams that flow to the Colorado River.
Explaining the program and eligibility requirements to myriad water users is complicated, particularly as many in the ag community are leery of government-sponsored programs aimed at reducing water use, according to the SEO. A tight timeframe makes the effort more challenging. The Upper Colorado River Commission announced a call for System Conservation Pilot Program proposals Dec. 14 with a filing deadline of Feb. 1.
The SEO, which is overseeing the program in Wyoming, is eager to enroll as many participants as possible, according to the agency. The state and its upper basin partners need to demonstrate progress in cultivating various voluntary water conservation efforts to build a case against the potential for mandated cuts under the Colorado River Compact or federal intervention. The agency is relying on members of the working group to help field questions and explain the potential benefits of the program. But so far, confusion reigns, members indicated.
“Conservation districts — they really don’t know enough about what’s going on and they can’t ask enough questions,” Rep. Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale), a member of the working group, told fellow members. “There just needs to be more formal outreach in the country.”
Industrial water users in southwest Wyoming — trona mines, natural gas processors and electrical power utilities — “are yearning for information,” working group member Aaron Reichel of Genesis-Alkali said.
Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs), also a member of the working group, said “there’s a lot of concerns with this System Conservation Pilot Project.” Concerns include “the timeframe to get [information], who to contact, who’s going to answer these questions to put together an application, what’s eligible — all those questions. I’m just getting inundated with this stuff because of the timeframe of this.”
Gordon, anticipating the need to protect the interests of Wyoming water users from the impacts of the Colorado River crisis, formed the Colorado River Working Group in 2021 and appointed eight members. The group includes two representatives for municipal water users, one for agriculture, one for environmental interests, two for industrial water users and two legislators — Sen. Hicks and Rep. Sommers.
Gordon “tasked members with helping to more broadly disseminate information about key Colorado/Green/Little Snake River Basin issues to interested stakeholders, and for members to provide insights as Wyoming navigates important river issues,” Gebhart told WyoFile via email, adding that the SEO relies on the working group to enhance its own public outreach efforts.
In forming the group, Gordon agreed to the SEO’s suggestion that it not be subject to the state’s open meeting laws, according to Gebhart, though the group has decided to mostly adhere to open meetings standards so far.
Gordon’s office didn’t directly answer what justifies the working group’s exemption from the state’s open meetings laws. As a gubernatorial appointed group convened by a state agency to address issues with a critical public resource the body would appear at a glance to be obligated to operate transparently — but such quasi-governmental groups can and do exist, according to Bruce Moats, a Wyoming attorney who specializes in First Amendment and Wyoming media law.
“The group appears to exist in a kind of a gray area,” Moats said. “The question is, why is it necessary to have the option to close meetings [to the public] when you have exemptions under the public meetings law that allow for that. Just why?”
At the urging of group members Monday, Gebhart agreed to consider hosting a webinar that provides members of the public the chance to ask questions about Colorado River issues and the SEO’s efforts to enroll water users in the SCPP.
“We are not trying to limit information getting to the public,” Gebhart told WyoFile. “Ultimately, our goal is to get more, and accurate, information to those potentially affected by the current situation.”
The post Leery of open forum, water group struggles to inform public appeared first on WyoFile.
Ever since humanity developed the technology to miniaturize the telephone—first to the size of shoe, then to the size of a credit card, and then back to the size of a shoe again—one debate has raged: When, if ever, is it OK to answer your phone on the golf course?
The question has stymied sociologists and puzzled philosophers. It has pitted friend against friend, playing partner against playing partner. The no-phoners deal in unrealistic absolutes, grounding their argument in ideals instead of reality. Team phone, meanwhile, slides farther and farther down the slippery slope. One day they're picking up because their wife is in labor, the next they’re on hold with the cable company trying to upgrade to HBO. So which is it? Phone or no phone? We posed that question to our brightest (and most combative) minds and came back with one definitive answer:
There is no definitive answer.
Alex Myers: Of course you can answer a personal call on the golf course. I hate to play the parent card here, but I'm playing the parent card here. Do you know what the odds of me not getting some panicked call from home during a four-hour round? Probably about the same chance of Phil Mickelson ever winning PGA Tour Player of the Year. And if I don't pick up that call, the odds of me ever playing golf again are even slimmer. So, yes, use that phone as discreetly and quickly as possible (it's probably nothing, anyway) and don't hold up play. Hopefully it doesn't come to this, but sacrificing hitting a shot or two is a lot better than sacrificing your next tee time.
Joel Beall: July 21, 2017. A day that will live in infamy. It was Open Championship week at Royal Birkdale but I was not on-site. Following Friday’s play, my coworker and her then-fiancé decided to go out for an emergency 18 holes. Through seven I was having the round of my life and a round that had a shot at the course record. On the eighth fairway I received a call from my boss, who asked if I could edit a story a colleague had filed late from Birkdale. Feeling ashamed that I had abandoned a post I didn’t know I was supposed to man, I proceeded to blade an approach from 90 yards out on the way to my first bogey. I followed with a 5 on a driveable par 4, then a double on the par-3 10th. I cried stumbled my way to the clubhouse to get the story published, then to a local bar with my coworker knowing there was no libation to put out those flames. Now, does this incident speak to my brittle psyche and lack of gumption? Yes. Does it remain unclear why my boss, or anyone on-site at the tournament for that matter, could not post the story? Absolutely. Has my game spiraled into an abyss that shows no sign of return, punishment from the golf gods for not respecting the gift they bestowed to me that evening? Without a doubt. But the thing is … no, that about covers it. Moral of the story: Keep the phone in the f—ing bag.
Drew Powell: Let me preface with this: I am not a snob. As a golfer in his mid-20s, I consider myself in the progressive bunch when it comes to on-course customs. I say wear the hoodie, play the music and if you’re really set on trying to make joggers work, go for it. My open-mindedness stops, however, with phone calls. (Are they even a thing anymore?) The only thing worse than someone’s phone ringing on the course is the moment when they answer it. If your phone went off while in church or at a Broadway show, would you pick it up? Fine, playing golf isn’t quite the same deal (though some might say it’s both sacred and performative), but the point holds—hit the red button, send a quick text asking if something serious is up, then get back to your $5 Nassau.
Stephen Hennessey: Completely disconnecting from the real world sounds ideal, but that’s not possible for some of us. Urgent calls from work or your spouse on the course are OK, but there are a few things to keep in mind.. A) If it’s a private club, ask your host first. If the club has a no phone policy, you’re out of luck. B) Keep every convo to no more than two minutes. If you can’t, skip the hole and go somewhere quiet so you don’t disrupt play. C) Family emergencies are OK, obviously. I hate phone calls on the course more than anybody, but if my playing partner is following these steps of etiquette, I won’t judge.
Sam Weinman: Even if we agree that phones are an inevitable part of any modern golf round, it doesn’t mean they need to permeate every segment of the experience. There is a limit to how much your eyes should be fixed on a screen because you are incapable of real conversation. I don’t need to be reminded of the latest society crumbling development on Twitter. Unless divorce or unemployment is the alternative, that incoming call buzzing in your bag sure as hell better be going to voicemail.
The golf course as a tech-free haven is not a realistic goal, but if you’re picking up the phone and engaging in conversation in the middle of our fairway, I need at least an apologetic “I need to take this” wave before I silently start to hate you. It better not be about where you left the keys. or some juicy piece of neighborhood gossip, and heaven forbid a speaker phone is involved because by then I’m already halfway to my car.
Chris Powers: Let’s get one thing straight—no one is stopping you from taking a personal call on the golf course. Unless there are actual consequences at the course you’re playing (rare), go ahead, hit answer and talk away. Just know that I, and everyone else in the group, hates you. Another qualifier to avoid offending the easily offended: If it’s an emergency call, we don’t hate you, but make it quick (kidding).
Any other type of call? Save it, especially you “work-related” call takers. If your job was that important, you would not be able to ditch it to play golf. Or, if the job requires you to be on the phone all day, may we suggest a different activity than golf as your playing hooky activity. As for the spousal calls, those are one thing if you have kids. If your wife or husband is just checking to see when you’ll be home, what’s for dinner tonight, or where the remote is, you should be removed from the course for answering that call. It really all depends on the nature of the call and how loudly and how long you are speaking on it. If you make it so nobody even knew you took the call, good on ya. If you’re one of these “LOOK AT ME, I’M ON THE PHONE, I’M IMPORTANT ON EVERY OTHER HOLE” people, kindly, leave.
Greg Gottfried: Phones suck on the golf course. You get a few texts, and suddenly you have non-golf thoughts swimming around in your head. The game is already so fickle, why make it even more difficult? I’m not as staunchly against taking a call as some of our team, as evidenced by the group Slack that turned into the Malice in Palace at the mere mention of the word “phone,” but I have been infuriated by someone walking away from their ball to take a call. Get your sh*t together, man. I do think there’s an etiquette to these things. It’s not all-or-nothing. You should get one (or maybe two, MAX) “hey, sorry, I gotta take this” a round if you really need to. Don’t linger though. Make it snappy and get the call done, and once you’re off, profusely apologize to show that you mean business. At the turn is the best place to be futzing around on a cellular device, and if it throws you off your game, well, I’m all for it. In fact, I may even tell mutual friends to call you on the back nine to really throw you for a loop. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
The United Nations just sounded alarm bells about the rise of hate speech. "The rise and impact of hate speech is being amplified at an unprecedented scale … threatening peace around the world," the authors of a Jan. 30 report wrote .
The report joins a flurry of latest warnings — by members of the European Union , U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres , and others — about the rise of hate speech, as well as calls for the U.S. government to crack down on the problem.
DEMOCRATS JOIN EUROPEAN ELITES IN DESPISING THE FIRST AMENDMENT
Commentators are right to condemn the rise of violence and hatred toward minorities. However, the most reached-for solution, new laws regulating hate speech, would just make the problem worse.
For one thing, hate speech laws don't actually reduce hatred. Many countries in Europe have passed aggressive hate speech laws, but Western Europe as a whole still scores 24% on the antisemitism index created by the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit organization dedicated to measuring and fighting antisemitism. That means that 24% of Western Europeans harbor antisemitic views. In the United States, this number is only 10%.
This isn't a coincidence. A 2017 study published in the European Journal of Political Research found that the connection is at least somewhat causal: Western European extremism is partly fueled by "extensive public repression of radical right actors and opinions."
Why do hate speech laws create more extremism ? One reason is that they turn extremists into martyrs. When Hitler's star began to rise in the 1920s, Weimar Germany tried to censor him . The state shut down hundreds of Nazi newspapers and even banned Hitler from speaking in many parts of Germany. Rather than impeding Hitler's rise, this crackdown fueled it. The Nazis leveraged the government's censorship to build support for their campaign. One poster was illustrative. "Why is Adolf Hitler not allowed to speak?" it asked. "Because he is ruthless in uncovering the rulers of the German economy, the international bank Jews and their lackeys, the Democrats, Marxists, Jesuits, and Free Masons!"
Antisemites, from Hitler to Ye , formerly known as Kanye West, claim they're speaking truth to power and unearthing a giant conspiracy dedicated to keeping their countrymen down. Silencing them simply feeds into this claim. It suggests to people on the fence that the extremists might be on to something.
Isaac Saul, a Jewish reporter, wrote about this pattern after Ye's antisemitic tirades: "Ye says antisemitic things. Ye faces consequences (like all the businesses now severing ties with him). And those consequences are held up as 'proof' he's right." Saul is talking about private businesses cutting ties with Ye, but how much more fuel would it add to antisemitic conspiracy theories if the government stepped in to silence the musician?
So if hate speech laws don't work to prevent hatred, what does work? Counterspeech. When decent people confront and argue against hatred, whether racism or sexism or antisemitism, we can combat the siren song of these ideas. This isn't just theory. The U.N. itself says counterspeech is an effective remedy: "To counter hate speech, the United Nations supports more positive speech and upholds respect for freedom of expression as the norm."
Proponents of hate speech laws have noble intentions. One clear goal is to create a world in which the in-group cannot oppress the out-group, which is why these laws are often touted as a boon for minorities. But good intentions don't magically lead to good results. Rather than pushing for more laws cracking down on online hatred, commentators such as Guterres should look to counterspeech as a solution.
Robust counterspeech may do more than any law to create the tolerant and open-minded society that most of us want.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
Julian Adorney is a writer and marketing consultant with FEE.org and has previously written for National Review, the Federalist, and other outlets.
A month into the “special military operation” in Ukraine, the Russians were at the gates of Kyiv. Not far from the front line, Lieutenant Colonel Andy Milburn, formerly of the US Special Forces – along with a collection of veterans from around the world, many with Special Forces backgrounds – was teaching newly-conscripted Ukrainian soldiers how to shoot a rifle.
Doing such a job was slightly below Milburn’s old pay grade in the US military. He says he had first come to Ukraine last year as a journalist to report on the war, but found himself unable to simply observe and report what was happening. So he started volunteering to train Ukrainian troops, gradually drawing together a group of veterans with a similar desire to help out. They started to form a cohesive group but it wasn’t smooth sailing. The gunfire on the training range repeatedly attracted the attention of the Russian artillery, forcing Milburn and his crew to take cover in a nearby bunker. While under one such barrage, the veterans discussed what they should be called. Milburn isn’t clear who suggested it, but ‘The Mozart Group,’ stuck. It’s a good story.
Approximately nine months on from its naming, in a nondescript apartment in Kyiv, Milburn sits wrapped up in several layers for our Zoom call. The electricity is out so the heating isn’t working. He has just got back from northern Ukraine where he and a team are teaching a battalion of soldiers weapon-handling skills and marksmanship before they rotate to the frontline. Milburn has been Mozart’s leader since its inception and is now formally the group’s CEO. Even over Zoom, the impression he gives is that he is slightly tired of having to explain the name.
The Mozart Group is an obvious wink to the Wagner Group, the brutal Russian private military company (PMC) also operating in Ukraine, which has been accused of multiple war crimes since first coming to prominence in Crimea in 2014. Barely a week goes by without Wagner making its presence felt in news of the conflict. Such is its importance to the Soviet offensive, that its head, Dmitry Valerievich Utkin, appeared to cast the blame for slow progress in Bakhmut on a lack of supplies from the Kremlin.
Milburn, however, says they never intended to be compared to Wagner, though he thinks that Mozart might, one day, be the answer to them.
“Delivering critical capabilities to Ukrainian frontline units”, is the Mozart Group’s aim, according to its own website. It has expanded its offering since March 2022, and currently provides three core activities. There is basic military training, such as marksmanship, weapon-handling skills or medical training. If a unit is more advanced, Mozart will give them “that little bit more support to bring them to the next level”, according to another member of the group, known as Rich, a 12-year veteran of the British Army with experience inside an elite unit, who leads some of the training for Mozart. The key criteria is that soldiers are well disciplined and prepared for combat; Milburn uses his experience to judge this.
Second, there is humanitarian extraction. This involves helping to move those civilians stuck on the frontline who haven’t been able or willing to leave until the fighting is right on their doorstep. This is not large-scale movement of people, but the evacuation of small groups stuck in the most inhospitable areas of the frontline. The largest extraction, documented by the Mozart Group, was a minibus worth of people last October. More often it is older couples or individuals.
Finally, there is the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians who can’t or will not leave their houses. Critical supplies, such as medicine, water or food have all been delivered by the group. Again this is not large-scale delivery but targeted, most recently in Bakhmut. In videos posted on its social feeds, it is not uncommon for artillery to be screeching overhead or landing nearby as the group helps people.
Mozart is one of a number of Western, veteran-led volunteer groups that have formed offering military training and support in Ukraine: like the Trident Defence Initiative, Ghosts of Liberty or Backyard Camp. Taking payment through PayPal, Bitcoin or directly, many of these groups have a slightly ragtag or rebellious edge to them. Payments are given on a trust basis, with no oversight on where the money is going. And sometimes it turns sour.
Mozart is at pains to present itself as both skilled and specialist. But its own image is currently somewhat tattered.
At the start of this year, a bitter fight broke out across LinkedIn and other social media platforms between Milburn and Andrew Bain, Mozart’s CFO and apparent majority stakeholder in The Mozart Group. Bain is another former Marine Colonel who has lived in Ukraine for 30 years. According to his LinkedIn post on the subject, he helped set up and finance the Mozart Group, claiming Milburn was then brought in to run it - which contradicts most of what Milburn has said to me over Zoom. Each is trying to fire the other.
Bain has now released a 15-page litigation document filed in Wyoming, the place Mozart was incorporated as a company, with a raft of accusations that seek to remove Milburn from his position as CEO, as well as seeking damages. The 24 accusations range from the bizarre – appearing drunk in an online video and being disparaging about Ukraine; using a company car to drive to the UK and abandoning it; hiring someone he met via a dating app as a PA on £90,000 a year – to the more serious: Bain also claimed that Milburn violated International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) of the United States, bribed military officials, and made unwanted sexual advances on a female office manager.
The majority of the accusations, however, concern the misuse, misappropriation or misdirection of donations coming into the Mozart Group. Neither does Bain escape the mudslinging. In an Instagram post from Milburn’s account, he is also accused of sexual harassment; the post also links to a piece by a blogger who accuses Bain of links to the Russian government, and even that he has attempted to sell his half of the Mozart Group to the Taliban. None of it makes for edifying reading.
When approached for comment, Bain said only that “recent posts and comments ensure defamation will be a much larger part of the proceedings than originally envisioned”. Milburn calls all the allegations “completely ridiculous - but rather than rant about them or him here, I have placed this matter in the hands of legal experts”. He says he expects the outcome to be resolved soon.
Despite this, Milburn has outlined a desire, in the future, to see Mozart members helping with command and control in the operational headquarters, or assisting in the “fires cell”, where artillery and other indirect fire platforms, such as drones are brought to bear. Allegations aside, given Milburn’s background it’s not a leap to imagine that a stretched or less-developed military might allow this to happen.
It is not unknown for militaries to take on advisors, or for contractors to be involved in the targeting of indirect fire. However, advisors involved in the chain of command who can influence decision-making on the battlefield are rarer. From a purely functional standpoint, having an advisor in this capacity might inject a level of confusion which might do more harm than good in a military operation, where a clear chain of command is essential for functioning in the chaos of war. Soldiers need to know who is directing them and who has responsibility for what. These advisors tend to be from other military units – like the elite Green Berets in the US, whose specialism is advising local forces.
At a functional level, this might not be an issue for Milburn and his team; these environments certainly seem like a more natural home, given his former rank and the backgrounds of many Mozart members. It is also, undoubtedly, where the group would have more of an effect at an operational level. However this would draw Mozart closer to “direct participation in hostilities”, the line which international bodies use to define combatants from civilians. This would open themselves up to accusations of crossing the line into unlawful combatants and the legal and ethical quagmire that brings with it.
This is a line private military companies [PMCs] have avoided crossing by focusing on strategic-level support of military activities, rather than operationally leading them. How active and close that “support” is varies and allows for a spectrum of PMCs. The Mozart Group currently exists at one end, closer to an NGO than a traditional private military company. Were it not for the military training element, they would be purely delivering aid. There are many more of these new groups in Ukraine that only provide military training or support, so sit more centrally on the spectrum of support. Wagner exists right at the other end. They have no problem actively fighting and conducting operations, almost unilaterally, in their host country.
Another area where Mozart and Wagner are united in their difference is their funding – not least the murkiness surrounding it, some of which the litigation documents throw light on. Conventional PMCs provide services under contract to a government. Where Wagner differs is that they are also reported to be actively supported by the Russian Government via their founder Yevgeny Prigozhin. This enables them to function where it doesn’t make financial sense for others to work, and gives them access to men, equipment and support that other companies could not access, let alone deploy. The Mozart Group on the other hand is almost entirely supported through charitable crowdfunding. This is done via tax deductible donations funnelled through its non-profit organisation, Task Force Sunflower. At least, that is what Milburn tells me.
On closer inspection, and if the litigation document is to be believed, the reality of where that funding comes in seems a little more convoluted. The donation button on the Mozart web page links to a donation page on Safe House Global, a trading name for a company called Reel Holdings. Reel is registered in Wyoming to one Jeffrey Carr, according to documents provided by Andy Bain. Jeffrey Carr has the same name as the Substack blogger, whose blog accused Bain of trying to sell his part of the Mozart Group to the Taliban in a voice note, which Milburn used in his posts attacking Bain. The Bitcoin wallet on the Mozart page is untraceable, and the Merchandise page is now showing up blank. Donorbox is used on Mozart’s Facebook page and the Task Force Sunflower web page, although it doesn’t give any hints as to where money actually ends up. On Milburn’s personal Instagram account he has donation links for Venmo and PayPal, alongside a link to Mozart’s website. It’s all a bit opaque.
But the money is not to be sniffed at – according to Milburn, Mozart is spending US $100,000 - $170,000 a month to maintain its operational tempo. Revenue is largely from organisations and companies. Milburn can’t tell me who or what these organisations are but stipulate they aren’t connected in any way to the US Government.
Mozart numbers about 30 people in Ukraine, split into three teams operating across the country. All of those are volunteers, giving as much time as they can before returning to the jobs they’ve left behind. Though the legal claim by Bain alleges otherwise – claiming Milburn hired PAs and expected a salary himself. There are a few positions inside the organisation which are paid, such as support staff and fundraisers outside of Ukraine, but the majority are not.
The group does not want to remain reliant on crowdfunding. Milburn says he hopes January 2023 will bring the first contract with the Ukrainian Armed Forces for training – taking Mozart more firmly into traditional professional PMC territory – and out of the volunteer crowdfunded space. It is for this reason that the Mozart Group is also set up as a limited liability company, so that it can tender for Ukrainian Government contracts. There has been no news so far on this contract, and with the very public infighting, it seems unlikely to happen. According to Mozart’s chief operating officer, Martin Wetterauer, it is this blend of revenue streams, crowdfunding and volunteers, along with a board that he says is being assembled, which will enable Mozart to avoid money issues pressuring the group into unethical territory.
The key area Mozart is hurry to avoid is comparisons with Blackwater – the American PMC operating in Iraq during the early 2000s when the security market was booming with contracts being handed out by the US Government.
As a US Marine, Milburn fought in the battles of Fallujah in 2004, which were sparked by the deaths of four Blackwater contractors; the second battle of Fallujah was one of the bloodiest battles the Marines had fought since Vietnam. Ninety five Marines lost their lives. Blackwater became a byword for cavalier contractors. It was banned from operating in Iraq by the Iraqi Government following the Nisour Square massacre in 2007, when 17 Iraqis were killed by Blackwater employees.
This hasn’t convinced Milburn that contractors or PMCs shouldn’t be involved in conflicts; he just believes that the drive to secure additional contracts and growth meant that Blackwater didn’t focus enough on the people it was recruiting – which led to a drop in discipline and the horrors that followed. “If you are very focused on business development, and all those aspects of starting a corporation,” he explains, “you start neglecting the main core task, which is your people, and it’s those people who will set that culture.” Given all the mudslinging in public, it does seem that this is one thing Mozart remains focused on, with nothing but praise for people on the ground doing the work.
However, for Dr Sorcha MacLeod, a member of the UN’s working group in the use of mercenaries, this is of little comfort. “Accountability and transparency are key,” says Dr MacLeod. “Without understanding where the money is coming from we cannot fully understand a group’s motivations.” The proliferation of these volunteer groups and the growing use of PMCs, such as Mozart and Wagner, in the conflict is a source of concern to the UN. Not long after we spoke, Dr Macleod was due to sit on a panel convened by the International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA), the body responsible for regulating PMCs specifically to address this issue.
For Jamie Williamson, the executive director of the ICoCA, it is about accountability. “If Mozart plans to get involved in the direction of artillery or command and control at an operational level, they not only lose their protections as civilians, they potentially confuse responsibility for who has done what in war… this leads to the horrors we are starting to see now emerge from Ukraine.”
This liability is also what sets Western armies against the likes of Mozart, states a source who used to work in the MOD department responsible for countering Wagner. The advantage of using them as outright proxies in conflict is dwarfed by the risk of them dragging the nation using them into outright conflict should something happen – as occurred with the Marines in Fallujah following the ambush and butchering of the Blackwater contractors. One of the main reasons Wagner is so effective is that its state support is deniable.
Wagner got its first public outing in Ukraine, coming to prominence in 2014 as some of the “little green men” who helped to annex Crimea. These were the armed troops who appeared on the streets in Crimea, clad entirely in green and without any insignia, who claimed to be there to protect the population but wouldn’t say who they were or where they were from until Russia had seized control of the territory. It is this ability to operate in areas of the world that conventional national militaries can’t, because of the political capital required to stake soldiers lives, that has seen Wagner spread across the world and prove effective as a tool of Russian foreign policy. Bolstered by state money and equipment, with no worries about domestic repercussions for their actions Wagner has grown into a “shadow army”. “It is this size and scale of what Wagner can do, which is totally new,” says Williamson.
This has not gone unnoticed by Western governments. The British Army’s newly-minted Ranger Regiment was created to compete in this arena, dubbed “operations below the threshold of war”, by the Integrated Defence Review in March 2021. They are playing catch up, however, and don’t seem quite ready to fight the likes of Wagner. Last November, British forces announced an early withdrawal from Mali citing, among other things, the presence of Wagner in the country. Which begs the question – if this kind of military action is beyond Western political appetite or the military's capability, should the UK be more proactive in what Milburn calls “ethically outsourcing counterinsurgency and influence operations”?
Milburn believes there are clear advantages to dominating this new type of proxy warfare, not least that through inaction, ground is ceded to adversaries or competitors (depending on how you look at the world). The growing trend of foreign volunteer organisations might indicate he isn’t alone. On the call with me he talks for the first time about Africa – the continent Wagner is most associated with – as a potential target for expansion. Wetterauer says Mozart is now looking at a hub-and-spoke approach with a central command. He also reveals that it has taken on two people in the UK, as part of their first plan of expansion beyond the US and Ukraine – though since the spat with Bain, at least one UK member of staff has left.
Much like Wagner has done unofficially with Russia, Mozart’s team plan to take direction from the US Government before involving themselves in a conflict. By talking to the State Department about which side are “the good guys”, the group hopes to sidestep any awkward clashes which could see them supporting groups designated terrorists by their home country – and by extension their whole group of supporters and crowdfunders.
This has happened to the families of foreign volunteers in Syria already, albeit under UK law. Again in the litigation, Milburn is accused of already breaking this self-imposed rule by seeking to attain military training contracts with Armenia, without clearing it through Mozart’s internal channels, let alone the US Government. He has also been accused of other violations of ITAR laid down by the US, though there aren’t any specifics – allegations which Milburn denies.
But even if they can negotiate this shifting landscape – and their own goals – the marketplace is stacked against Mozart, in a way that it isn’t for Wagner. Wagner’s pitch of a professional army without the price tag, to kill your enemies is a simple and compelling one that Mozart can’t compete with. Capacity building and support are slow and expensive and the return on investment is less simple to calculate. Moreover, without oversight or input, how comfortable are Western governments going to be with their veterans tutoring foreign militaries? Though the market – and circumstance – might make Wagner itself less of a problem by the time Mozart comes of age.
Wagner's reputation has caught up with it – and it is now openly labelled as a mercenary organisation. The EU-imposed sanctions, in November 2022, joining the US which imposed financial sanctions early this year. More look set to follow, which will only make it more difficult for the group to operate internationally. The Russian group’s most-experienced troops have been chewed up in the conventional fighting of Ukraine. Just one month into the “special military operations” 3,000 Wagner troops were said to have died. Leaked videos of Prigozhin giving a recruitment speech inside a prison point to Wagner backfilling its ranks with prisoners, making it both a less-effective force and a less compelling offer for those nations that might fancy a turnkey solution to their conflicts. Ukraine has also weakened Putin’s position in Russia, which might yet lead to a rift between him and Prigozhin, who reportedly has political ambitions, too. Russia might learn first hand the drawbacks of delegating a state's monopoly on violence.
It remains to be seen if this is the beginning of the end for Wagner and vice versa for the Mozart Group. Milburn and his team were certainly positioned and branded well in a market that seems to be growing globally, a space traditionally occupied by governments and militaries, now opening up, not just to large companies but also grassroots organisations – but this internal fight may have rendered Mozart over before it’s even really begun.
Milburn is well versed enough in the law of armed conflict to navigate a market that is outstripping the already patchy legal and ethical framework which surrounds it. Whether his own moral compass is enough to guide him and his company is another question. His belief is that this is a space which is going to be there whether governments or militaries are able to fill it, so why not fill it with an organisation aligned to your national interests?
Meanwhile, Wagner has certainly noticed Mozart; its affiliated Telegram channels are targeting their rival with propaganda. And several of Mozart’s most latest locations have – perhaps coincidentally – been targeted by indirect fire. Milburn and his volunteers continue their work, as they started it, under fire. As for its own work, Mozart is now fighting fire from within as well as outside. The conflagration may, in the end, be just too much.
Over the past half-decade, the Philadelphia 76ers have turned over nearly their entire roster. Throughout that transition, one maxim has largely held true: They blow opponents out with Joel Embiid on the floor, and they get blown out with him of the floor.
That's been the case throughout the first half of the 2022-23 NBA season as well, which speaks to the unanswered questions they still have at backup center. If they don't address it ahead of the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline or on the buyout market, it could once again prove to be their undoing in the playoffs.
In each of the past five seasons, the Sixers have outscored opponents by at least six points per 100 possessions with Embiid on the floor, according to Cleaning the Glass, and they've gotten outscored with him off the floor. His on/off differential has been in the league's 95th percentile or higher in five of his six active seasons, with the lone exception coming in the Sixers' disastrous 2019-20 campaign.
That's largely a testament to Embiid's individual dominance, but it's also a reflection of how poorly his backups have tended to fare. The Sixers have tinkered with different big men as backups for Embiid in years past—from Amir Johnson and Greg Monroe to Boban Marjanovic and Dwight Howard—but all of them have gotten exposed as defensive liabilities when the playoffs came around.
The most glaring example of Embiid’s drastic on/off splits came in the 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Toronto Raptors. The Sixers outscored the Raptors by 90 in Embiid's 237 minutes on the court and got outscored by 109 in his 99 minutes on the bench. In the decisive Game 7, the Sixers outscored the Raptors by 10 points in Embiid's 45 minutes, but they got outscored by 12 in the three minutes that he didn't play. (Monroe was a minus-nine in two minutes.)
Heading into this season, the Sixers had more flexibility behind Embiid than ever before. They had a traditional (albeit undersized) rim-roller in Montrezl Harrell, a springy, switchable shot-blocker in Paul Reed and a small-ball 5 option in P.J. Tucker.
At the Sixers' media day in late September, head coach Doc Rivers expressed confidence in that trio.
"Well, this is the first year we don’t have a 7-footer as a backup," he said. "We had Dwight and [Andre Drummond]. But we have a collection of guys with P.J., Paul Reed, Trez. We feel very comfortable in that role. And obviously with P.J.’s age and Joel with his size, and we want to make sure he’s healthy … we want to do a better job in the games where some of those guys don’t play; we want to win those games. So with the collection, we feel very comfortable in what we have.”
However, the Sixers have yet to get consistent results from their backup bigs this season.
Aside from the ill-fated 2019-20 season, the Sixers have largely backed up Embiid with traditional screen-setting, rim-rolling centers. Monroe, Marjanovic and Johnson were good for the occasional mid-range jumper, but otherwise, Embiid's backups have largely been limited to lobs and putback dunks.
Some of them—Howard and Andre Drummond in particular—were elite in those specific roles. However, their lack of lateral quickness made them liabilities when defending pick-and-rolls, which proved fatal against perimeter players who could pepper them with mid- and long-range shots.
Harrell, who has been the Sixers’ primary backup center for the past two months, fits more into that mold on both ends of the floor. Nearly two-thirds of his shot attempts are coming within three feet of the basket, and another 32 percent are from between three and 10 feet. He's shooting 58.6 percent overall this season, but he has hit exactly one shot from beyond 10 feet.
Harrell won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award under Sixers head coach Doc Rivers when they were both with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019-20, but that level of play didn't carry over to the playoffs. He was a team-worst minus-37 during the Clippers' seven-game loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. Throughout that entire playoff run, the Clippers allowed 116.3 points per 100 possessions with Harrell on the floor and only 103.4 per 100 with him on the bench.
The Sixers' defensive splits are far less drastic with Harrell on the floor this season, although that may be regular-season noise more than anything. Harrell is still a liability in terms of rim protection and pick-and-roll defense most nights, which looms as a significant concern if he remains their primary backup behind Embiid heading into the playoffs.
Reed briefly supplanted Harrell earlier in the season, although he has played sparingly since the start of December. He offers far more defensive upside than Harrell, but he's also more mistake-prone on both ends of the court.
“I feel like I have to be more consistent,” Reed said in late December, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Be more consistent, be a better finisher, and be consistent on the defensive end as well. Just doing what they ask me to do, which is rebound, block shots, and then the defensive rotations.”
The Sixers are allowing 109.1 points per 100 possessions with Reed on the floor compared to 109.9 per 100 with him off. (They're allowing 108.4 per 100 with Harrell on.) However, they're averaging an anemic 103.1 points per 100 possessions with Reed on, while they're scoring 111.1 per 100 with Harrell.
Rivers said earlier in the season that he liked the offensive fit with Harrell and James Harden, who played together for two seasons in Houston in the mid-2010s. The two have shared the floor for only 393 possessions this season, but the Sixers are outscoring opponents by 8.0 points per 100 possessions with that duo. Lineups featuring Harden and Reed, which have played only 131 possessions in total, are getting outscored by 9.2 points per 100 possessions.
Perhaps Reed will get another crack at earning rotation minutes in the second half of the season, particularly in the wake of the Sixers' new starting lineup experiment. Backup center could also be an area of focus for the front office leading up to the trade deadline, although the looming threat of the repeater tax could influence what they do in that regard. Hassan Whiteside could be a free-agent option on a 10-day or rest-of-season minimum contract, too.
The Sixers do still have one ace up their sleeve: small-ball lineups with Tucker in place of Embiid. The 37-year-old has played only 323 possessions this season as the 5, and the Sixers have gotten outscored by 3.8 points per 100 possessions with those lineups. However, the five-man group of Harden, Tyrese Maxey, De'Anthony Melton, Tobias Harris and Tucker have blasted opponents by 15.0 points per 100 possessions (albeit in a tiny 149-possession sample size).
Embiid will likely start playing around 38-40 minutes per game once the playoffs begin, so the Sixers should only need to tread water for 8-10 minutes without him. As long as they don't get blown off the floor in those minutes, they should stand a chance most nights.
However, the 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinals should loom large in the front office's mind as they weigh whether to upgrade the options behind Embiid. If Harrell gives opponents an open layup line or Reed makes a few boneheaded mistakes in the Embiid-less minutes, that could be the difference between winning and losing a game or even a series.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NBA.com, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information via Spotrac or RealGM. All odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.
A definite cause of the deaths of thousands of crabs on north-east beaches cannot be given, an independent panel has said. Thousands of dead and dying crustaceans were found piled high along beaches along the north-east coast of England during a three month period.
Research by academics, backed by the fishing industry, suggested the incident could have been caused by industrial pollutant pyridine, possibly from dredging in the mouth of the River Tees to maintain channels for port traffic. However this has now been deemed “exceptionally unlikely”.
And while the panel said it was impossible to give a definitive answer using current data, it concluded on Friday that it was “about as likely as not” that a pathogen new to UK waters – a potential disease or parasite – caused the crab deaths. .
The mass die-off of the marine life hit the coastline from Hartlepool to Whitby beween October and December 2021, with dying creatures “twitching” and displaying lethargic behaviour. The panel, made up of academics, industry experts, and chaired by Defra’s chief scientific adviser, Gideon Henderson, was asked to look into the cause.
The panel, which also had input from the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, investigated a number of possible causes for the unusual crab deaths which started in October 2021 including a potential disease or parasite, a harmful algal bloom, chemical toxicity including pyridine, and dredging which could have released a toxic chemical. Each of these potential causes was assessed according to the likelihood of the occurrence.
It said the key observations that must be explained by any cause include: mortality over a sustained period and along at least 70km of coastline; the unusual twitching by dying crabs observed in many locations; and the deaths being dominantly crustaceans rather than a wider range of species.
The panel concluded:
It is about as likely as not that a pathogen new to UK waters – a potential disease or parasite - caused the unusual crab mortality. There are pathogens known to cause similar symptoms to those observed in the north-east and these pathogens have caused mortality events and declines in crustacean populations around the world. No significant pathogens were identified in the north-east crabs but full molecular screening was not conducted at the time of the initial investigation.
It is unlikely that a harmful algal bloom or that a loss of oxygen in the water associated with the algal bloom caused the crab deaths. The panel assessed satellite data and water-column measurements and concluded that the presence of an algal bloom in the area during September 2021 was likely but it was unlikely that the bloom persisted beyond October 2021.
It is very unlikely that pyridine or another toxic pollutant caused the crab deaths. The panel considered industries on Teesside and concluded they could not be sources of any significant volume of pyridine during the period of the crab deaths. Measurements of seawater by the Environment Agency and York University could not detect pyridine. Sediment measures of pyridine from dredged material and other toxic chemicals found in sediments in the Tees are significantly lower than the levels which would cause crab mortality.
It is very unlikely that maintenance dredging, as required to keep the port open, was the cause; a dredger operated in the channel offshore Teesside during late September and early October 2021 but the maximum possible release of toxic chemicals, including of pyridine, caused by this activity is significantly too small to cause crab mortality.
Capital dredging (i.e. as required to expand the port) was last carried out in December 2020, some time before deaths started in October 2021. Further capital dredging did not commence until September 2022. It is therefore exceptionally unlikely that capital dredging on the Tees caused the crab mortality seen in the region.
Although there is no direct evidence of a novel pathogen - a disease or parasite - it would explain the key observations including mortality over a sustained period and along 70km of coastline, the unusual twitching of dying crabs and the deaths being predominantly crabs rather than other species..
It is also possible that a combination of factors lead to the unusual mortality, rather than one of the factors the panel considered.
Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, said: "I would like to thank the scientists who have been involved in the expert assessment of this unusual crustacean mortality. For a complex issue like this it is important to have a range of experts involved who can offer independent challenge and analysis.
"Whilst with the current data there cannot be a definitive answer, the options for possible causes and an analyses of likelihood are clearly laid out in the report."
Gideon Henderson, Defra Chief Scientific Adviser, said: "The report summarises thorough and insightful analysis of diverse relevant data by an impressive group of leading marine scientists from across the UK. Their combined knowledge allowed expert assessment of all possible causes of the unusual crustacean mortality.
"The panel was unable to identify a single clear cause, but it has been able to point to those more likely to explain the key features of the outbreak."
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey asked Defra’s Chief Scientific Advisor Gideon Henderson to liaise with the Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance to establish an independent group, following a request from the Environment, Farming & Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee. The Crustacean Mortality Expert Panel (CMEP) was convened from December 2022 to independently assess the causes of the unusual deaths.
The panel was established with experts from academia and industry with a range of knowledge and experience.