Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Barriers to accounting knowledge creation

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I have been pondering my assignment for the 25th JMAR anniversary panel that I will be taking part in next Friday.

It has made me think about the wider question of how do we “know what we know” about accounting more widely?

As far as I can see we have made it very difficult to learn much about this subject by our own actions and inactions.

To start, we teach our new initiates to our subject about a mechanical exercise in bookkeeping rather than a rendering of economic accounts and accountability of persons.

We teach what passes as theory of accounting ( financial normally) as a fourth year or masters level course for the initiates.

Our early year textbooks are barren of research references unlike any other social science discipline except perhaps law.

Then within our research community we take pride in our ignorance! Paradigamic concerns trump substantive knowledge about accounting knowledge at every turn. Never has a discipline been where willful ignorance has been gloried like it has been in accounting these past 25 years.

Doctoral programs have little or no real breathe elements. Generations of doctoral students can barely read research in adjacent areas of financial accounting research let alone across research traditions.

We acknowledge journals like JAE and JAR as allegedly leading fonts of knowledge in accounting – journals that can count on one finger the number of management accounting articles they publish in a year!!! Yet management accounting represents a huge portion of both the professoriate and the practice of accounting.

Finally we take no responsibility for this ourselves. We do as one former TAR Editor did on a panel where he proclaimed that if you did not have six working papers and a major paper forthcoming when you obtained your PhD, you should start looking for your second job immediately. there would be no way in XXYY that you would get tenure at the school you would soon be joining. But this was not his fault or his preference, he blamed “them” for it!!!

I hope 2014 might be the year that we may finally get our act together and begin to act as a mature social science discipline. The excuse that we are a young discipline is wearing a bit thin given we are now at least 50 years into the modern era of accounting research and teaching!!!!

That is my hope and my prayer for the NEW Year. Blessings upon all of my readers and peace and joy of the season, however you celebrate it, be upon you!!


1 Comment

  1. Stephen B. Salter says:

    I think this comes to the question are we a trade (technicians) or a profession. I would argue that we are a profession and as such need to understand the background (including history and research) of the topics. Unfortunately the vast majority of accounting faculty do solely practitioner research (if any) which does not facilitate deep thought. Further outside a small circle most financial practitioners see themselves as technicians and are uncomfortable with any other form of training. Just remember the systems that used to be more theory and background driven have moved to a more cookie cutter US system.

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