Musings on Accounting Research by Steve
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more “interesting” BRIA papers

We continue on our mission to learn more about research methods by examining two issues in this first year.

  1. how do on-line worker’s differ from the general population?  W. Brink et al give us some interesting insights into how the values of on-line workers depart from that of the general population.  No surprise here really, I certainly expected them to be different, but what ones? how extensive? were they in areas of interest to accounting researchers?  These are all discussed in this paper.
  2. Recently I accepted a review of dual process theories of human decision making applied to financial accounting and investing.  We recently have seen an uptick in research using dual process theories in both audit and financial accounting research.  Griffiths et al (2016) in AJPT discussed the issue from an audit perspective.  Winchel and Hamilton have a forthcoming piece in BRIA looking at it from the application of finanical accounting. One of the key observations among many that they make is that “heuristic or intuitive or peripheral processing or type 1 thinking” (they all mean in essence the same thing with slight variations) has got a really bad rap over the years, because experimenters set up experimental tasks in such a way that it is rare that deep thinking (i.e. a more rational person approach) does not win.  They point out implicitly, that if this type of thinking was a bad as experimental researchers portray it, we as a species would not have survived so long.  Anyhow, great paper that provides a unifying framework to consider a lot of financial accounting experimental and archival research and that suggests a lot of research directions for the future!  I can foresee a few dissertation papers coming out of this one!!!

One of the neat things about dual process theories is that they are strongly supported by neuroscience evidence and they combine a lot of smaller phenomena (with associated theories) from psychology into one overall theoretical framework.  In other words the commonalities of dual processing theories show that the notion that psychology is all over the map with its theorizing is not really the case.  Those of us who have thought carefully about this know it, but for many researchers (even psychology based ones) they still find this surprising!


What else have we accepted?

Another paper that is sure to raise some interest (and or hackles) is a very careful study (by Khan and Tronnes from Australia) that suggests like other experimental disciplines, audit behavioral research features a little too many just made the cutoff papers (i.e. p<0.05 and P<0.10).  Mind you, on a percentage basis it appears that it is lower that other disciplines but nonetheless it is signficant both statistically and meaningfully.

Some commentators on the paper feared it would be used to show experimental audit researchers in a bad light as it has no evidence about how audit archival researchers trim their data to achieve the same time.  Now, in my mind, finding a problem in one area and documenting it does not mean you have to find all the dirty linen in our academic closets at once.  No doubt others will be coming along shortly showing a similar pattern in archival audit research (matter of fact I know at least two sets of authors doing work in this area).

In any event a paper that had a hard time being published – at least in auditing journals!!!!

MoreBySteve grows up

Well, after blogging for nine years I finally took the plunge and registered a domain name!!!  What does that mean for you the loyal reader – no MORE ads on the old blog site!!!

Several folks have mentioned they would like to have a comment function on the site.  I was puzzled by this observation as I have always had the comment function set up (moderated mind you) but still set up.  Indeed, a couple of readers comment on occasion.

Finally figured it out – you have to read the individual blog post – not the home page to find the comment function.  So just click on the blog title and you will find the entry reloads and the comment function “leave a reply” opens as a text box at the bottom of the page!!!  And that’s it!!!  You can comment and I may even post your comment!!!

What have we accepted at BRIA – Year 1?

I have been remarking as I travel around the world that the volume of manuscripts has not changed much over previous years but the quality has gone way up!!!  This presents both good news and challenges.  For a world of accounting that likes to focus on rejection rates, sorry folks, my rejection rate is going down.  For the world of scholarship – good news – we are accepting articles that would have a problem finding a home elsewhere despite their being important topics.

The first paper our team accepted was a field study of governance committees (by Dana Hermanson et al forthcoming in issue 1 of 2019).  Governance Committees are second order actors in issues that accountants study themselves (i.e. governance pick the pool that is available to fill the audit committee, etc). Furthermore, the authors objected to a lot of excessive theorizing – we know from lots of field studies in North American governance at least that it takes a combination of agency, resource based view and power theories in order to account for the diversity of practices in corporate governance.  Nonetheless, the paper had been done very well and we decided that the push for excess theorizing was getting a little out of hand.  Mind you, we requested that the authors do more theoretical analysis than they wanted, but in the end we had a meeting of the minds!

New ??? Directions for Audit Research

Now onto the qualitative methodology folks and their suggestions about new directions for audit research! As I listened to them speak I had a strong sense of déjà vu that dated back at least a decade if not more.

I sat at the Congress (recall I am at an EAA early morning plenary) trying to figure out what is wrong. Simply put there was little passion on the panel for what they were presenting. Indeed, the only passionate actor was pushing for studies of audit beyond the financial audit as if there was nothing that needed study for in financial auditing.

If academics cannot get passionate about their suggestions for future research endeavours – what can we get passionate about? So I poked them awake by posing the question in terms I knew they would react to if there was any passion on the panel – I compared their presentations to some of the malaise I observe in archival audit research forums on the same topic.

It was an interesting reaction. Of course there were the two overly defensive responses but the panel sat upright and began to show some spirit. And the questions and suggestions from the floor were also spirited.

I know that there is a lot of new ideas floating around audit qualitative research. We have three examples at Queen’s of PhD students doing interesting and innovative qualitative research in audit.

I close with the observation of one panel member after it was over, maybe the panel could have been a bit younger if we wanted to truly focus on new ideas!

New (or rather lack of) directions for audit research

As I said earlier in my blog there is a wealth of material backlogged from my European sojourn!

One of these were two audit research observations. First, by the one of the two or three most distinguished audit researchers in the world who suggested audit archival research was nearing the end of what it could accomplish. Second, the rather insipid discussion that totally lacked any passion until I intervened at the EAR panel on ” New Directions in Audit Research” held at the EAA (and I remind the panel members that most of them had invited me directly to get up and come to an 830 am panel – ask and ye shall receive)!

Frankly I think both are problematic, but for different reasons!

There is still a lot of room for new thinking on archival audit research, but the current generation needs to stop its chokehold on the editorial process that is making conforming normal science research choices dominant in archival audit research. Indeed, the current fascination of repeating the same studies at ever increasingly refined levels (coming soon American partner level studies that will repeat the investigations done in Australia (and elsewhere) and try to make small result differences seem like mountains not the ant hills they actually are) stifles any truly innovative research . Editors are doing the safe thing by accepting realms of turgid normal science dial tuning (turning would be calling it too great an innovation) in this realm setting a poor example for audit PHD students that this is what it takes to get published in the majors. These dial tuning studies do not belong in the top journals but should be the province of niche journals. At least in North America there is a strong trend by PhD students of following up on what is published in the majors hence causing a downward spiral of fine tuning in audit archival research. This may be why some of the most innovative audit archival research is being done in Europe where luckily there is some ignorance of, or ignoring of, the Anglo-Saxon rules of the publishing game. Let’s hope that continues as it is one sign of innovative research in the archival audit realm!!!

Next up, the qualitative quagmires of the ” New Directions” Panel!

Canada is in America ( i.e. North ) but is not American

Every year between July 1 ( Canada Day) and July 4 ( USA Independence Day) I think a little about how the differences between our two countries are reflected in Accounting research and practice. I know, only an academic accounting nerd would ponder this question but it is interesting in light of the broader geopolitical environment.

How did Canada, which was founded based on allegiance to the British crown, become so accepting of diversity in accounting research (and other areas) whereas the USA became so monolithic in its devotion to financial economics?

How did Canada founded on the precepts of “peace order and good government” take seriously the need to constructively critique our accounting and auditing institutions ( Among others) whereas the USA founded on the precepts of ” life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” became the home “of if it is not done here it cannot be done right” (e.g. FASB, PCAOB etc)?

How can a country born out of revolution (the USA) to established authority from beyond the seas (the UK) take it upon itself to establish its authority beyond its borders in the regulation and inspection of public accounting?

Every year I try not to be smug, it does not work I know but I try, but I remember Americans as individuals are kind, considerate and open people even if their institutions and leaders suggest otherwise! Happy Canada Day and a shout out to the ” Glorious Fourth” for our once (and hopefully future) friends to the south (and if you look carefully on a map to Kkingston’s Northeast!).

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