A programmer sitting in front of three monitors

The problem with finding good programmers in science


So as you might know, I am not only an Archaeologist, but I am specialised in Digital Archaeology. The difference is, that I do not go excavate as much, but rather try to develop hard- and software for Archaeology. But, I am no programmer either, so I have to rely on people who can code properly. And here lies the problem with finding good programmers in science: Why should they work for me, if they can actually make money?

What is the problem?

So working at a university has several advantages. Universities (at least in Germany) are state-run and obliged to certain rules. One of them is payment. There is a more or less complex system of payment classes, depending on your position and the amount of time you have worked there. You can say, that regulating this is a good thing, because not every department has the same amount of money. Richer departments might be tempted to pay their employees more and poorer departments (e.g. Archaeology) will feel bad.

Regulated payment creates equality in between the employees of different departments and even universities in general. But, this also means that if I want to employ someone, let’s say a programmer, I can pay him only as much. Compared to what programmers can earn in the industry, the payment is not much. Hence, good coders need to ask themselves why they should work for a university department, when they can actually earn good money somewhere else. Finding good programmers in science is therefore problematic.

Is there a way to compensate?

Unfortunately, I do not have an answer to that. I can argue, that what we do is certainly more interesting than creating websites (for example) and might even lead to new insights of humanity and our past. But, to a young Bachelor student, this does not connect anymore. I can also argue, that we can apply for the newest technology and hardware, offer independent working hours and autonomy. But is this enough? As far as I have seen, I don’t hink so, as projects struggle to find good programmers for their projects.

The problem leads to long-lasting effects for research in general. As we are not able to create the technology and software we want (due to the lack of well-payed programmers), we won’t advance in our research which is very technology-based. This is actually a bad outlook for Digital Archaeology in general. So we need to find ways to circumvent this. Maybe cooperate with the industry, which is usually frowned upon as the industry does not want to share their findings. We need to find a solution to that soon.

What do you think?

As I do not have any good answers I am really wondering how you see this argument. Maybe you are a scientist struggling with the same problem or a programmer knowing the dilemma. I would be really interested in ideas and solutions to what I have argued above as I want to work on that problem in the future. Please feel free to contact me or use the comments section down below.



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Sebastian Hageneuer

Hi! My name is Sebastian. I am an archaeologist, a university lecturer, freelancer, guitarist, and father. You could say I am quiet busy, so I learned to manage my time and energy to build good habits and still have space for myself and my family. Sounds difficult? Read here how I do it. Every Friday.

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