APP 3-60: Merit and Promotion File Documentation for Academic Senate Titles

Describes the components of a merit, promotion, mid-career appraisal, or tenure review file, including the base file, confidential outside letters, and recommendations from the department, chair, and dean.

The Council on Academic Personnel (CAP) receives merit and promotion dossiers that vary greatly in quality and thoroughness of preparation. Although procedures are indicated in the University of California’s Academic Personnel Manual and the UC Irvine Academic Personnel Procedures Manual (this manual), CAP believes that some matters need clarification. CAP offers the following suggestions on the preparation of dossiers and information about items it considers important.

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Summary: Stages of Review and the Dossier

Stages of Review

There are several critical stages of review in the system:

  1. Appraisal at midcareer as an Assistant Professor
  2. Appointment at or promotion to the tenure level, Associate Professor
  3. Appointment at or promotion to full Professor
  4. Appointment at or “promotion” to Professor, Step VI; and advancement or appointment to Steps VII, VIII, and IX (each for an indefinite duration, but generally a minimum of three or four years)
  5. Appointment at or advancement (promotion) to an Above Scale salary (normally only after at least four years at Professor IX)
  6. All assistant and associate level merit increases
  7. Accelerated advancement
  8. Nonreappointment

Dossier Contents

Dossiers should contain information and evaluation in the following areas:

  1. Teaching
  2. Research and Creative Work
  3. Professional Competence and Activity
  4. University and Public Service

Initiators of action (department chairs, departmental personnel committees, deans, directors, etc.) should inform the faculty member when and for what purpose a dossier is being prepared.

Significance of Dossier

The University operates on a multiple-level review system, one which has proved quite effective in maintaining overall academic quality. The adequacy of review at each level depends on how well the dossier is assembled and how analytic the assessment is. CAP hopes that these comments will help faculty and administrators to make every dossier one that does justice to the candidate’s record and makes a clear case in support of the proposed action.

General Guidelines

The documentation required to support a recommendation for advancement includes the base file, external letters of evaluation (if required), the department letter, and the independent recommendations of the chair (if included) and dean. Section A-H below provides general guidelines for preparing this documentation.

Short Form Guidelines

For many merit reviews where the record seems clear and there is essentially unanimous agreement at the department level on the appropriate action, UCI has adopted the “Short Form” to simplify file documentation. Section I below provides guidelines for preparing a dossier using the Short Form.

A. Base File

Most of the evidence in the base file is supplied by the candidate: the Curriculum Vitae, Addendum or Review Profile, and the publications or other creative work (as well as sabbatical leave reports, if applicable). The student evaluations of teaching (SETs) for each course should be supplied by the candidate or the department.  Any summary information provided can be commented on or placed in context by department and/or chair. (updated 10/29/21)

  1. Addendum (Form UCI-AP-10):  The Addendum form is required and was designed to reduce the number of cases needing additional information and to improve the organization of the material submitted, thereby avoiding delays.
    The Addendum form outlines the activities (teaching, research and creative activity, professional competence and activity, and committee and administrative service) that reviewers expect to see documented in the file and provides space for the candidate to list these activities for the review period. (The Addendum forms are for faculty on the general campus and for clinical faculty.)
  2. Publications: Copies of all publications, reviews, and/or exhibits, including work in press, should be included for the period under review. Abstracts, book reviews, and letters published in professional journals should be grouped separately. For easy reference, publications should be numbered the same on the addendum or review profile as on the curriculum vitae.
  3. Teaching Evaluations: The dossier should include individual teaching SETs for most courses and any summary information that is provided with the pre-2021 or 2021-onward SETs. CAP especially requests that the teaching summary for each course provide an evaluation of the instructor’s general teaching effectiveness and the overall value of the course (See section D1: Department Letter, Section 2: Teaching) below for more details on appropriate documentation of teaching). (updated 10/29/21)
    For Health Sciences clinical departments in the School of Medicine or College of Health Sciences , it is important to describe the nature of teaching activities (organizing course, grading, lecturing, conducting clinical teaching) if this is not otherwise provided. Medical student and resident evaluations must be obtained. If there are very few student evaluations, the unit is responsible for providing other evidence (letters solicited from students, observation of other faculty, etc.) on the teaching performance. It is also important to indicate the total contact hours with students during the quarter, or in the case of team teaching, the hours on which the evaluation is based.
    For major actions (promotions to tenure, advancements to Professor, Step VI, and Above Scale) and in special cases (e.g., acceleration based in large part on teaching), the “raw” teaching evaluations should accompany the file. See also Student Evaluation and Additional Documentation. 
B. External Letters

External letters are normally required for all promotions and advancement to Professor, Above Scale.

  1. Preparation of reviewer lists: To minimize the “strategizing” that is often viewed as necessary to create a candidate list that does not contain all the obvious/best reviewers:
    1. Candidate list: Prepared by Candidate.
    2. Department list: Prepared by Department without consulting candidate list.
    3. Overlapping names on both lists are designated “Department list”.
  2. Definition of Non-Conflicted letter writers: Non-Conflicted indicates that the letter writer does not have a conflict-of-interest with the candidate.  Conflicts include:
        1. Advisor/Mentor at any level (lifelong conflict).
        2. Substantive collaboration in the last 4 years:
          1. Substantive collaboration includes past or pending grant collaboration, co-authorship.
          2. Team Science co-authorship, grant funding, or editorial work on candidate publications are not necessarily conflicted as long as the department explains the incidental or minor nature of the relationship.
        3. Close personal or familial relationship
        4. Current faculty/staff at UCI.
        5. Direct financial relationship.

A non-conflicted letter still requires explanation of the writer’s relationship to the candidate. This information helps the Council on Academic Personnel (CAP)/Academic Personnel weigh the evaluator’s perspective. For example, being close graduate school friends or previous department colleagues is not a conflict, but is important contextual information. Other examples of non-conflicted relationships might include serving together on an editorial board, committee, or conference panel.

  1. Advancement to Above-Scale, or Promotion to Associate or Full Professor (including Professor of Teaching series), Clinical X, In Residence, or equivalent positions:
      1. Minimum number of letters required:
        1. 4-5 analytical letters. At least three letters must be department-nominated and non-conflicted. Exceptions to this requirement will be virtually non-existent.
        2. Letters from UC faculty are encouraged, especially for UC-specific advancements (ie: Above Scale) or for a promotion with acceleration.
      2. Requested by: Chair.
      3. Letter writers: The majority should be non-conflicted (see definition above). The letter writer must be at or above the rank to which the candidate is being promoted.
  2. Letters are not required for advancement to Professor, Step VI:
      1. Candidate has the right to request that the Chair solicit external letters. If request is denied, the candidate can note this in their file.
      2. CAP may request letters if they feel it is necessary to make a decision.
  3. Letters are NOT required for acceleration within rank:
    1. Campus level review information is typically sufficient for evaluation of cases for acceleration.

Letters in foreign languages should be translated into English.

All solicited letters received must be submitted with the dossier and if solicited but not received should be so noted on Form UCI-AP-11 “Identification and Qualifications of External Referees.” To avoid having too many letters, at most ten referees should be asked to write letters of evaluation.

Letters of reference are required since in many cases the Council does not have the specific expertise to evaluate certain research areas. Because variability exists across units, particularly with regard to recommendations for accelerations, and because accelerations are recommended only in special circumstances, the Council on Academic Personnel (CAP) feels such letters of recommendation help to ensure uniformity throughout the campus.

Soliciting External Letters

Letters must include those from a balanced set of writers suggested by both the candidate and Department and should include eminent individuals familiar with the field or with the candidate’s work. Letters soliciting such external evaluations should contain the following: 1) explanation of the proposed action (important with Step VI and Above Scale and accelerations), 2) request for analytical review of the candidate’s performance under the applicable criteria and comparison with other scholars in the field at similar rank, and 3) the following confidentiality statement:

Although the contents of your letter may be passed on to the candidate at prescribed stages of the review process, your identity will be held in confidence. The material made available will lack the letterhead, the signature block, and material below the latter. Therefore, material that would identify you, particularly your relationship to the candidate, should be placed below the signature block. In any legal proceeding or other situation in which the source of the confidential information is sought, the University does its utmost to protect the identity of such sources.

The selection of extramural referees for candidates above the assistant professor level requires considerable care. For normal merit increases up to Professor Step V, the departmental report is the primary source of the essential, evaluative information and letters of reference are generally inappropriate and unnecessary.

For “promotions” to the highest levels, such as to Professor, Above Scale, it is helpful to have some letters of recommendation from within the University of California that speak directly to the issue of the appropriateness of the step and magnitude of the acceleration proposed. People outside the system usually do not know the criteria for the highest levels in the UC system. Book reviews and other reviews of the individual’s work may also be included. Of course, non-UC letters are also expected since the highest levels require great distinction at the national and international level. Appropriateness of Above Scale salaries may be indicated by election to national academies or internationally recognized prizes for superior achievements.

At the end of this section, contains examples of typical letters soliciting outside evaluation. Exhibit A concerns promotion to tenure, Exhibit A-1 concerns promotion to tenure with modified language for family friendly policy, and Exhibit B concerns promotion to full Professor. Exhibit D is a letter for advancement to Professor, Step VI, and Exhibit E is for advancement to Above Scale. Exhibit F provides additional sample wording for actions in Exhibits C, D, and E. In this manual, APP 1-12 contains further information on soliciting outside letters.

List of Evaluators

In preparing the dossier, the initiator should indicate the names and qualifications of all those from whom letters were solicited by completing Form UCI-AP-11 “Identification and Qualifications of External Referees” When appropriate, initiators should also evaluate the letters as part of their comments on the dossier referencing the writers by the appropriate code assigned to them on the UCI-AP-11 form. Initiators should always indicate which letter writers were suggested by the candidate and which by the department. It is also important to indicate outside letter writers who were asked to supply an evaluation but, who did not respond.

Most of this information may be provided on the form “Identification and Qualifications of External Referees,” Form UCI-AP-11.

Include a sample of the letter which was sent to solicit outside evaluations. If the letters of solicitation were substantially different, include copies of all such letters.

C. Summaries of Confidential Material and Response

The candidate should be informed (orally or in writing) or upon request, provided a redacted copy of the external letters in the file. If the individual submits a written response commenting on the external letters, it must be included in the dossier.

D1. Department Letter

The department letter (as well as the chair’s recommendation and the dean’s recommendation) should be addressed to the Chancellor or to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, according to the chart below:

Actions in the following titles: Assistant/Associate/ProfessorLecturer SOE/Sr. Lecturer SOEAssistant/Associate/Professor in ResidenceAssistant/Associate/Professor of Clinical_________
Addressed to the ChancellorPromotions/Above Scale Actions*Promotions
Addressed to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost**Merit IncreasesMerit IncreasesAll ActionsAll Actions
*The Chancellor recommends to the President or to the Regents concerning all salaries that are more than the posted thresholds.
**For actions delegated for Dean’s approval, address as appropriate.

Before preparing the department letter, writers should consult the “Instructions to the Review Committee” for the appropriate series (APM Policy 210).

The department letter should (1) set out and explain the recommendation of the department faculty for action on a personnel case, including the reasons for any dissent, and (2) should support the recommendation by evaluating analytically, not merely describing, the candidate’s performance in each of the areas of responsibility: teaching, research and creative activity, professional competence and activity, and University and public service.

The department letter should include the following information:

  1. Faculty vote and opinion:
    1. The faculty vote (which determines the department recommendation) must be included in the dossier. See APP 1- 14 for a description of departmental voting procedures and for recommended formats for recording the vote. CAP finds it most useful when the dossier contains a statement about the departmental voting procedure or when it groups the votes by rank.
    2. If the vote is not almost unanimous, it is important that the department letter summarize each of the contrary positions, i.e., explain the no votes and abstentions. The Council on Academic Personnel (CAP) suggests that, if more than one formal ballot has been taken, this should be explained and tallies shown for each.
    3. The department letter should include any pertinent department discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the case (see APP 1- 12 for further information about recording faculty opinion in the department letter.)
    4. The Council on Academic Personnel (CAP) prefers that faculty members who have been actively involved in preparing a departmental review be identified (for example, those on a special subcommittee to review the case). It does so because department members may be selected to serve on ad hoc review committees, and it is important to avoid extensive individual involvement in the review at more than one level.
  2. Teaching: Because teaching is one of the primary functions of the University of California, performance in teaching is an important criterion in advancement except in special cases. The Council on Academic Personnel (CAP) does not define teaching performance merely in terms of classroom and laboratory performance. It also considers activities that require professional knowledge and that directly contribute to the academic advancement of students: e.g., creative design and redesign of courses, supervision of independent work, mentoring of postdoctoral scholars, consultation with colleagues about ways to improve teaching, supervision of junior teaching staff, involvement with secondary or primary school programs, and the preparation of teaching materials (See APM Policy 210-1-d-(1)).
    1. Student Evaluations: CAP and Vice Provost for Academic Personnel (VPAP) believe including the student perspective is an important element of evaluating teaching. Thus, files for all major actions should include student evaluations of teaching (SET).  CAP/VPAP also supports consistency in the instrument used and requests that SET used are the campus-wide forms, preferably moving forward the SET adopted by the Senate in 2021 that have a standard set of questions, distributions rather than average ratings, and there is a section for school provided questions that can be tailored to specific disciplines and/or departments.  Departments and Chairs are encouraged to comment on the distribution of ratings for each of the standard questions, review the open ended comments sections and to address repeated themes in the student comments within a course, across courses, or across years that highlight either strengths or weaknesses.  (updated 11/1/2021)
    2. Additional Documentation: The candidate or the candidate’s department is encouraged to provide additional documentation about teaching performance, particularly when they feel that student evaluations do not adequately reflect teaching performance during the review period. Documentation from the candidate about efforts to improve instruction, written evaluation from students in mentor relationships, and course materials (e.g., syllabi, tests, or handouts) may prove useful in this respect. CAP will request such information about teaching when it finds student evaluation non-responsive or incomplete. Moreover, in cases where advancement rests primarily on outstanding teaching performance, CAP advises inclusion of such materials in addition to the required statistical course evaluations.
    3. Courses Taught and Students Supervised: Courses taught should be listed by number and name with the enrollment indicated. The initiator might comment on the courses (new, innovative, or difficult) when appropriate. Additionally, senior thesis students, masters and Ph.D. students, and post-doctoral scholars supervised should be listed; this is an item often overlooked. Finally, team teaching situations (by percent) and how the teaching load of the individual under consideration compares with that of others within the department should be stated.
    4. Graduate Teaching Activities: CAP requires written evaluation of faculty graduate teaching activities. Because graduate seminars are often small, because graduate students are being trained in the context of a profession they hope to enter alongside their professors, and because the education of graduate students involves a great deal of guidance outside the classroom (directed reading, research planning, thesis supervision and the like), the normal quantitative or even “descriptive” form of undergraduate teaching evaluations often inadequately reflects graduate teaching. The written evaluation should at least cover the major graduate teaching activities of the candidate. These may include course evaluation and/or written evaluations of additional aspects of graduate teaching. Therefore, if a faculty member’s primary graduate teaching occurs outside of the classroom, then written evaluation of these activities must be submitted as evidence of teaching performance.
  3. Research and Creative Activity (See APM Policy 210-1-d-(2)):
    1. The candidate’s scholarly and/or creative activities should be critically evaluated. The evaluation should provide a careful assessment of the craftsmanship, originality, significance, and impact of the candidate’s work. The assessment should not merely state that the work is significant or has had impact. It should indicate what is significant about the work and the nature and extent of impact. Initiators should also indicate the relative stature of the candidate in his or her field. Is the candidate a leader and/or innovator or a good workaday scholar? A departmental or external letter that says “I know of Professor X’s work and feel it is of good quality” is not much help.
    2. Occasionally, the department requests an action for an individual on the basis of different versions, or different stages of completion, of the same work as used to support a prior advancement (this may apply to grants received; project(s) completed; publication(s) submitted to a publisher, accepted by a publisher, published, or favorable reviews received). To avoid duplication, initiators should read carefully the previous departmental recommendations. For a publication, a crucial date to be established is the date accepted for publication. This always should be indicated in the dossier because of its importance in the review process. If an individual’s work has had a significant delayed impact, it is reasonable to call attention to this fact.Faculty members should make sure that relevant information is up-to-date at the time dossiers are prepared. In each dossier, the faculty member should clearly indicate what new activities and publications should be credited since the last review. Articles “in press” are credited as accepted for publication and should not be listed in later reviews for future credit. If there are joint publications, it is important that the role of the faculty member in the research be described and defined. The letter should clearly set out how the record has changed during the review period. Units must verify that material listed as new was not included in the last positive review. If material included in a previous review is resubmitted, the department letter should explain what has changed. Normally, work is considered when it is accepted for publication and a complete manuscript (except for minor revisions) is available, preferably accompanied by referees’ comments. Units should not request increases based on different stages of work (in draft, submitted, etc).
    3. Performances or other creative activities should not merely be listed, they should be evaluated by the faculty. In certain fields such as art, architecture, dance, music, literature, and drama, distinguished creation should receive consideration equivalent to that accorded to distinction attained in research. In evaluating artistic creativity, the unit should attempt to define the candidate’s merit in the light of such criteria as originality, scope, richness, and depth of creative expression. It should be recognized that in music, drama, and dance, distinguished performance, including conducting and directing, is evidence of candidate’s creativity. (APM 210-1-d-2.) Reviews of the work and publications or other outside evaluation should be discussed and copies included in the dossier.
    4. If there is collaborative research, the letter should describe the relative contributions of the person under review.It should be recognized that special cases of collaboration occur in the performing arts and that the contribution of a particular collaborator may not be readily discernible by those viewing the finished work. When the candidate is such a collaborator, it is the responsibility of the department chair to make a separate evaluation of his/her contribution, and to obtain outside opinions based on observation of the work, while in progress.
    5. The placement of publications should be addressed. The quality of journals or presses in which work appears can be an important measure of the impact and quality of the candidate’s work. Where the placement is unusual, or may seem so to reviewers outside the department, the department letter should discuss the implications of this. For those works that appear in conference proceedings, information about the conference proceedings publication(s) is needed since there is a large variation within and amongst different disciplines. The information may include, as appropriate, the conference’s acceptance and publication rates, if the paper was accepted on the basis of title or abstract only, and the archival status of the conference proceedings.
    6. In assessing the types of contracts, grants, or fellowships awarded to the candidate, the department letter should address the importance and the expectations of such support for the particular discipline.
    7. In preparing the dossier, the initiator should briefly identify the letter writers. This information should be provided on the form “Identification and Qualifications of External Referees,” Form UCI-AP-11, referencing the writers by the appropriate code assigned them.
    8. The evidence provided in the outside letters should be weighed and discussed.
  4. Professional Competence and Activity (See APM Policy 210-1-d-(3)): This category grows in importance as professorial level increases.
    1. Any dossier proposing Professor, Step VI, or above, must include a discussion of the candidate’s professional impact and stature, including national and/or international honors received, election to distinguished societies, and other evidence of the individual’s outstanding leadership in the profession.
    2. In certain positions in the professional schools and colleges, such as medicine, a demonstrated distinction in the special competencies appropriate to the field and its characteristic activities should be recognized as a criterion for appointment or advancement. The candidate’s professional activities should be scrutinized for evidence of achievement and leadership in the field and of demonstrated achievement in the development or utilization of new approaches and techniques for the solution of professional problems. It is the responsibility of the department to explain the candidate’s achievements in this area.
  5. University and Public Service (see APM Policy 210-1-d-(4)):
    1. This section refers to the performance of the professor as someone who carries his or her share of the burden of shared governance. University-wide, campus, school, and department service should be evaluated, not just listed.
    2. Units are reminded that service in educational outreach activities (K-12) is specifically listed (in APM 210) as an item which should receive credit.
D2. Department Letter Short Form for Normal Merit Increases and First No Change Requests

The Department Letter Short Form (UCI-AP-12) must be used for dean delegated merit, CAP reviewed normal merit and first No Change action. It must be used for the following series: Professor; Professor of Teaching; Professor In Residence; and Professor of Clinical X. It is optional for the following series: Health Sciences Clinical Professor and Adjunct Professor.

The Department Letter Short Form (UCI-AP-12) does not apply to consecutive No Change, Above-Scale merit, or Five Year Reviews.

Rationale and Implementation

  • The Council on Academic Personnel (CAP) and Academic Personnel (AP) agree with over 90% of regular merit recommendations.
  • A short form requires less work for individual faculty, departments, and other levels of review without compromising the integrity of the review process.
  • CAP and AP can effectively evaluate merit files without lengthy department and candidate statements.
  • Any extenuating circumstances can still be detailed in the chair’s letter, which remains unrestricted in length. However, for all positive department recommendations in which the chair is in agreement, a single paragraph from the chair and, when going to CAP, the dean, will likely suffice. If CAP or AP need additional information, these will be handled through additional information requests.

Department Letter: Must be on new Short Form (3500 character maximum including spaces)

  • Effective 2020-2021 review cycle.
  • Department letter should be evaluative and focus on significance and impact of accomplishments in research/creative activity, teaching and service, including any contributions to inclusive excellence in these areas. Analysis of strengths and weaknesses rather than an advocacy statement is most helpful.
  • It is not effective to narrate the AP-10; higher levels of review examine the AP-10 in conjunction with the department evaluation, chair’s evaluation, and, if CAP reviewed, the dean’s evaluation. Thus, titles of articles, lists of journals, courses, etc. are not generally helpful; an analysis of their significance, impact, acceptance rates, etc. is helpful.

An overview of student feedback comments and other evaluations of teaching is helpful; quotations from individual students or peer reviews are not necessary; those are included in the file.

Please click here for Sample Letters.

E. Summary of Departmental Recommendation and Response

The candidate should be informed orally or upon request, in writing, of the departmental recommendation and the departmental evaluation. If the candidate has requested a copy of the departmental letter, the chair will provide this information to the candidate, annotating the departmental letter with the date it was given to the candidate. If the individual submits a written response commenting on material given to them by the chair, the written response must be included in the dossier.

F. Certification Statement and Academic Personnel Action Summary
  1. The Certification Statement (Form UCI-AP-50), signed by the faculty member after appropriate choices have been indicated, should be forwarded with the file.
  2. The Academic Personnel Action Summary Form (Form UCI-AP-22) is a cover sheet, affixed to each file, on which the department should provide a summary of its recommendation and of the appointee’s UC employment history. The form assists in the orderly processing of the file through the various levels of review.
    1. The department must indicate at the top of the form the effective date and the type of action being recommended. (This is the action proposed in the department letter.)
    2. If the appointee holds a split appointment in two or more departments, show the departments and the percent of time for each appointment and have all chairs and deans sign.
    3. Salaries should be identified as either 9-month academic year or 11-month fiscal yearsalaries. Off-scale salaries should also be identified. If the proposed salary is based, in part, on countering a competing offer, CAP finds it most useful to have a copy of the other offer letter.
    4. Years at rank and step, and years toward the eight-year limit should be given, if applicable (See APP-3-50).
    5. Prior UC academic employment history should be provided.
G. Assembling the Dossier

For the exact documentation requirements for each type of action, refer to the checklist appropriate to that action. Place the checklist on top of the original dossier. Checklists. The checklist will specify the number of dossier copies needed. Normally, promotions and merit increases require the original dossier and one copy (unless additional copies are needed for ad hoc committee members).

H. Consideration of Non-collegiality in the Review Process
  1. Faculty behavior that is deemed inappropriate or problematic is a disciplinary issue, not a merit criterion. However, when an individual’s inappropriate behavior undermines their ability to provide effective service and/or disrupts the efforts of other faculty, staff or students to fulfill their own responsibilities, this can be considered in evaluating the service component of individual’s merit review. If non-collegiality is raised as an issue at the department level, it is the Chair’s responsibility, in their letter to the Dean, to be specific about the nature of the allegations, including concrete examples.
    1. The Chair’s letter should also outline the efforts to address offending behavior (meetings with faculty member, mediation, conflict resolution) and outcomes of such efforts.
    2. The Dean’s letter should document and/or contextualize examples of non-collegiality in a manner that allows higher levels of review to evaluate the merit of allegations.
  2. Examples of non-collegial behavior that might be relevant and cited in Dean/Chair’s letters could include:
    1. “Prof X’s service is considered below expectations, in large part because for the past three years, Department/School/campus committee chairs have asked not to have Prof X assigned to their committee because of Prof X’s history as a disruptive force that has negatively impacted the work of past committees.”
    2. “Despite the Dean/Chair discussing repeated complaints from staff with Professor X, Prof X’s interactions continue to negatively impact the staff’s ability to be effective in their jobs and this is viewed as negative service.”


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