Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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JAR wakes up!!!

What was once the leading journal in the accounting world with some of the strongest editors in the accounting world has finally realized that it has published papers by Jim Hunton and,oh by the way, it might have to inquire into them! Shock and surprise!

See their note here:

After all they are members of COPE ( Committee on Publication Ethics) through their publisher Wiley-Blackwell and should have been on this months ago when the original retraction by TAR was made. furthermore, it is not clear that they have yet read the COPE materials as the JAR editors’ note does not exhibit any understanding of what their responsibilities are as editors with respect to the matter.

What would former JAR editors like Sydney Davidson, Nic Dopuch and Katherine Schipper think of the lack of leadership shown by the present group of editors??? Rather than being in the forefront JAR once again finds itself lagging behind (as it also lags JAE and AOS in the recently released citation / impact factors). Then again, what should you expect from such a journal that has only two editorial boards members whose intellectual heritage is not based a very limited subset of financial economics! occasionally JAR shows signs of intellectual life but once again they disappoint!


It is somewhat amazing that the rather smallish behavioural accounting community in North America cannot separate two conferences! Yes indeed the AOS Conference on intangibles, made up mainly of behavioural papers and the ABO Mid-Year meeting are on the same two days in October. The former in Chicago and the latter in Philly!

The Accounting, Behaviour and Organizations section of the AAA was founded in the 1980’s to give AOS types in North America a rallying point at the height of the paradigm wars! Yet today they act as two ships in the night. Is BRIA really giving AOS such a run for its money that the AOS brain trust feels the need to snub the ABO by running a Conference opposite it’s Mid-year Meeting? Or is AOS deciding to become disconnected from North America as several other of its decisions suggest???

It is not as if a quick look at the calendar would not have revealed this potential conflict.

But maybe this is a show of strength by the behavioural community that it can run two conferences on the same days and attract enough folks to both!!! At least I hope this is true. As for me, Chicagoland here I come!

What’s in the public interest for accounting comments?

The AAA four centers approach was illustrated in the President’s speech by questions that each center might deal with as part of its mandate.

The centre that was to focus on public policy and thought leadership (i.e. the public interest) was illustrated with a question that is a fair bit beyond the remit of accounting “What are the effects of national debt on households in the future?”

Excuse me????? What in our background as accounting scholars and teachers that gives us a comparative advantage in answering such a question or posing public policy solutions to such a question?????

I am pretty confused by that one. Yes some of accounting academy have micro-economics training but look at what happened with micro-economic theory (i.e. agency theory in this case) was used to set macroeconomic policy.   In September 2008 the then US Secretary of the Treasury said that firms had to be allowed to fail in order to deal with problems surrounding moral hazard thus justifying his decision to let another financial institution go under.  Indeed on the last Friday in September he left the world with the thought that AIG needed to pay the same price that Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers had paid.  Luckily at the last minute he changed course and lead a what eventually became a highly profitable rescue of the insurance giant AIG.  Most economists and bankers believe that allowing AIG to fail (the largest insurer to many of the world’s banks) would have resulted in an implosion of the world economic system that would have made the 1930’s look like a decade of prosperity.

So I am not so certain we would want those accounting folks toying with macro economic questions.  Nor do I feel especially certain that psychology or sociology based researchers have any more to offer on such a question.

So while it is important for accounting academics to become engaged in larger questions in our society, it should be about institutions and issues that we have an comparative advantage in studying.  Securities laws and practices, the regulation of public and private companies, the supporting of the not for profit sector, government accounting and getting it right accounting rather than the politically expedient slight of hand accounting that is so often practiced, issues about taxation and fairness of such systems, the quality of auditing and how to make it work better, and so on and on and on.  These are all issues that accounting scholars have some comparative advantage in.  Commenting on those issues would be talking in the public interest based on our knowledge rather than our lack of knowledge.

So lets stay away from questions that we have no basis for addressing.  It would be a sad day if an accountant is widely quoted about the effects of the national debt on households in the future!

The AAA’s four pillars!

While it has been hinted at extensively over the past two years in various speeches by various AAA leader types, at the 2014 AAA Annual Meeting the vision for the future of the AAA in concrete terms was finally spelt out.  And it is intriguing. 

As I understand it the AAA would be organized around four themes, centers or “product lines.”  They are:
The production of knowledge – research;
The transmission of knowledge and skills – teaching;
The interface with the accounting profession broadly conceived – professional focus;
The interface with public policy and thought leadership based on accounting expertise – what they are calling the “public interest”.

While no doubt the devil is in the details, it seems like a reasonable approach on the surface.  Sort of a revised four pillars approach.  It will be interesting to see how it evolves over the next two years leading up to the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the forerunner of the AAA – the American Association of University Teachers of Accounting (I probably have that wrong but it is close).

Globally engaged?

The somewhat split personality of the AAA was on display at this year’s annual meeting whose theme was “Global Engagement!”

The Association is “globally engaged” so they say including featuring the world as part of their logo.  further, they refer to themselves as the “global leader in accounting thought and education.”  Who elected them as the “global leaders?”

But it really is an AMERICAN association at heart – not that there is anything wrong with that.  Indeed a bit more recognition that it is an AMERICAN association would be welcome.

The new President’s address to the conference (she is a Canadian by birth) illustrated the issues.  She states the forerunner of the AAA was founded in the mist of the first World War – in 1916.  Yet any good American high school textbook will tell you from a US point of view world war I lasted from 1917-1918 because that is when it became a world war – when the USA joined. 

In the very same speech where she showed her Canadian roots a major focus was on US only higher education statistics.  US President Obama’s attempt to have all US U’s report a balanced scorecard for their performance and the S&P’s (or was it Dunn and Bradstreet’s?) assessment of the prospects of US based universities both got a fair amount of play.  And that is as it should be at the AMERICAN accounting association.

So lets encourage the AAA to keep the “global leadership” rhetoric down and tell them to enjoy being the AMERICAN accounting association.  It would make us all (the ROW and US academics) much happier if the American Accounting Association stuck to being just that – the AMERICAN association.

Navel gazing continues

The sometimes improvised nature of our discipline came to the foreground yet again this year at the AAA Annual Meeting with for a third straight year yet another publication rates received a best paper published award.  This time the readers of Issues in Accounting Education gave the award.  So of all the articles published in Issues in 2013 the only one that merits attention is about publication rates. Anal or naval gazing I guess.

What is missing from this list?

1.03 Perspectives from Editors at Accounting, Organization and Society Journal, Journal of Accounting Education, Journal of Accounting Research, and The Accounting Review
Moderator: Terry Shevlin, University of California Irvine
(NASBA Field of Study: Accounting)

Chris Chapman, Imperial College London
Mark DeFond, University of Southern California
Michelle Hanlon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Doug Skinner, University of Chicago

This would NOT have happened on my watch!!!!

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