Saturday, October 3, 2009

Critical mass

We are back in Amman. The work in the field was intensive but all went well. We even managed to squeeze in some time for seeing sights and visiting friends.

While staying here in the ACOR I have become aware of what an advantage it is for scholars to have an institute like this, especially when run by such friendly and helpful people as the ACOR currently is. The environment itself is stimulating for scholarly work. You casually meet other people in the same field over the lunch and are able to share information. There is a well-equipped library for research. Above all, there is a continuity of research and scholarly community. If you happen to need some information from someone not here, there are probably people who know them and can put you in contact with them.

At the same time I am also painfully reminded of the futility of trying to work on Near Eastern archaeology in Finland. There is no tradition, and no guarantee of continuity beyond the on-going project. It makes me a little depressed.

In fact the problem is related to a larger problem concerning archaeology in Finland as a whole. We lack the critical mass that would give rise to a more dynamic research community. There are altogether around a dozen archaeologists employed as teaching staff on permanent basis in the three universities in Finland offering tuition in archaeology. To have time for research they also have to secure research funding and drop teaching. Only so few can get a temporary fellowship from the Academy of Finland. The rest are left to apply from various foundations, but the sources of funding for post-doctoral research are fewer than stipends for post-graduates, and it generally helps in getting funding if you have an established position with a university. This means that although there are currently perhaps more PhD students in archaeology in Finland than ever, they - that is, we - will find it hard to continue research after we get our degrees.

I wish there were more positions for archaeologists in the universities, but I fear it is unrealistic to hope for that in the foreseeable future. That is why we need the international contacts, both near and far, to bring in fresh winds as well as to have a wider audience for our own research. That is the only way to a better Finnish archaeology. Good science is not made in lonely cells, it is made in interaction with other researchers.

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