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MAR – is it a blip or the real thing (BABY)?

MAR or Management Accounting Research in some way is the biggest news in the two year impact factor of the SSCI as far as accounting journals go. It has broken out of the social science ghetto where according to one research study, 80% of SSCI journals have a two year impact factor of less than 1.9.  MAR’s impact factor is a robust 2.125.  Where did MAR come from and how did it break out of the SSCI norms????  Why, if you are an American are you unlikely to have read MAR and likely never seen it cited in the American 3 (at least recent articles)?

Examining MAR’s citation pattern is interesting.  It has, in the last two years, one cite combined in TAR, JAR, CAR, and JAE!  MAR’s claim to fame rests of a series of European based management journals with a strong bit of help from AOS. The Scand. Journal of Management, European Management Review and Accounting and Business Research are the big sources of citation.

This goes to my previous point, as more journals are “admitted” to the SSCI various clusters that would not be apparent in citations dominated by the American 3 and their associates will be seen and will influence the rankings of the journals more and more. But we have seen this before – the rise and crash and now small recovery of RAS is a lesson to those who would celebrate too early.  As recently as 2011 RAS (review of accounting studies) was above the 2 mark and had been for a handful of years starting in the early 2000’s!

Soon, why do we need to move to using the five year impact factor as our gauge (if we use one at all) for seeing the impact of journals.

SSCI – AOS is big winner

One of the key things to realize about the SSCI Impact Factors is that they are based on citations in other journals that are members of the SSCI!!! NOT from all journals. Hence, the history of success of most North American journals is that the senior ones are more likely to be in the SSCI combined with the prevalence of lower impact North American based journals in the SSCI. Worldwide it is both less likely the senior journals are in the SSCI and if they are in the SSCI it is less likely that lower impact journals are also in the SSCI. Both of these factors contribute strongly to the dominance of the American three accounting journals in impact factors.

But recently more and more non-American journals have been joining the SSCI. With that brings a wider diversity of types of research that is reported on and cited in those journals. In particular I note that the Critical Trio as I like to call them (AAAJ, CPA as well as the more centrist AOS) are, effective next year, ALL members of the SSCI. Given the huge number of citations AAAJ and CPA generate for AOS, despite the short term downward drift of AOS in the two year impact factor that looks large on the surface, seems likely to be transitory shock as capital markets folks might say. Note that AAAJ has only be in the SSCI for two years and CPA starts in 2015. Given AOS’s current high 5 year impact factor (still number 2 among all accounting journals) and given the added numbers that will be coming in from AAAJ and CPA over the next three to five years, AOS is definitely a candidate for being the big winner this year.

Tomorrow another likely big winner is discussed!

Holiday week in North America

As Australia and other southern hemisphere folks move into “winter” we in North America just had a week of national (Canada) /nationalistic (USA) holidays. You gotta love the difference between how these two neighbors celebrate. 4th of July is all about Americans are the best in the world whereas Canada Day is all about partying, family and friends. After watching the Canadian parliament hill celebration versus the Washington DC celebration on the old TV it really strikes home as to how different these two countries are along some dimensions.

Hence, the silence last week. Back to normal programing tomorrow with a discussion of SSCI and why AOS might be the big winner this year despite appearances to the contrary!!!

SSCI (Web of Science) strikes again

The annual impact factors from the SSCI for journals have been published early in the fourth week of June and the chattering has already begun among those who follow these things.

As readers know I have a love hate relationship with these sorts of rankings of influence. Of course the big story of the year is how AOS’s two year impact factor fell greatly and the arrival of Management Accounting Research (MAR) on the scene as the fourth most impactful journal in accounting according to the two year impact factor.

There is so much at work here, I am going to attempt to put it into perspective as part of the big picture. First, let us look at the entire list of accounting related journals on the SSCI. This will become very important in understanding what is going on here. Second, in the following days I will discuss what we can learn from looking at the full list and what it portends for the future. In the mean time, enjoy!!!!

Abbreviated Journal Title Total Cites Impact Factor 5-Year
Impact Factor
J ACCOUNT ECON 4681 2.724 4.679
J ACCOUNT RES 4302 2.384 3.387
ACCOUNT REV 4924 2.267 3.028
MANAGE ACCOUNT RES 935 2.125 2.29
ACCOUNT ORG SOC 3272 1.672 3.588
REV ACCOUNT STUD 944 1.379 2.007
CONTEMP ACCOUNT RES 1668 1.263 2.18
INT J ACCOUNT INF SY 268 1.219 n/a
ACCOUNT AUDIT ACCOUN 1361 1.188 n/a
ACCOUNT BUS RES 229 0.957 1.283
J BUS FINAN ACCOUNT 1212 0.914 1.246
ACCOUNT HORIZ 853 0.881 1.377
AUDITING-J PRACT TH 951 0.861 1.453
EUR ACCOUNT REV 653 0.84 1.555
ACCOUNT FINANC 526 0.746 0.983
J ACCOUNT PUBLIC POL 733 0.547 1.205
ABACUS 278 0.4 0.699
AUST ACCOUNT REV 164 0.381 0.55
J INT FIN MANAG ACC 140 0.278 0.622
COMPTAB CONTROL AUDI 41 0.258
SPAN J FINANC ACCOUN 84 0.22 0.297
ASIA-PAC J ACCOUNT E 46 0.152 0.093

Plus Critical Perspectives on Accounting will appear in 2015

Finally, the AAA retracts

well it is official, almost all of Jim Hunton’s academic record is based on fraud!  The AAA today retracted almost every article he published in an AAA journal except for four articles where the co- author had collected the data, normally as part of their dissertation!

I anticipate CAR, JAR and others will soon be joining in!  By the time it is all over Hunton will make the list of top ten authors retracted according to the numbers at retraction watch!  

What is so amazing about all this is how long it has taken.  By April 2013 when I left the CAR editorship I was on the verge of issuing notes of concern on all Hunton’s CAR articles!  The evidence collection did not take long and the fact pattern was clear!  Yet, Two of those articles still have not been retracted or even noted at CAR!  I still wonder if it all would not have been swept under the rug given that I am the only person on the record that made an official complaint to Bentley University about this matter in December 2012!

Critical researchers and the mainstream rankings

I learned by way of an retracted email that Critical Perspectives on Accounting (one of the top three critical journals albeit they would not describe anything that denotes hierarchy as being appropriate) has been admitted to the SSCI (Social Sciences Citation Index sometimes called the Web of Science). The editors had a sense of humour about it that is often lacking in accounting research – they wrote an editorial critiquing their decision to submit themselves to this form of “disciplinary power” that is created by this multi-national corporation – Thomson Reuters. Further, they skewer some of the pretensions of those of the “critical variety” who condemn activities leading to global warming while jet setting around the world to academic conferences to condemn it. Hopefully they all buy carbon offsets but no doubt that too can be subject to critical analysis.

So folks welcome to the world of what you have called “performance.” Use your new power well!!!

Thanks for at least having the sense of self to acknowledge the inherent contradiction in CPA entering an establishment index. Heck, maybe this will help the careers of some critical scholars or would that be too instrumental?

Hopefully the editors at CPA (Marcia, Christine and Yves – two of whom I consider friends and one a friendly acquaintance) take this welcoming note in the spirit intended and do not think I am “attacking.” After all, I might some day submit a paper to CPA!

He reveals all “retractions, concerns and corrections” (RCC)

So what stimulated this little four blog post odyssey on RCC? As my regular readers know I scan the literature broadly and in the May 2015 issue of the European Accounting Review I found a “note of concern.” Notes of concern are to be used when there is suspicion that there has been a serious breach of substance of the academic integrity of the article and that for a variety of reasons the editors cannot conclude that the paper needs to be retracted. In other words – reader is put on notice to be concerned about the integrity of the underlying science and be wary about citing these results.

After reading the EAR’s note of concern, all that I knew for certain was that the Editor of EAR was upset with the authors’ lack of disclosure of a related study. The note contained speculation about what might of happened if the study had been disclosed during the editorial process (a clear NO NO!!! in the COPE guidelines). It makes no comments about attempts to reach the authors, whether the authors responded or not etc. All of these are clear departures from COPE’s best practices.

So off I go to read the papers in depth. Luckily it is a subject matter that I can claim expertise in (the BSC in the tradition of Lipe and Salterio 2000, 2002 and Libby Salterio and Webb 2004 (TAR, AOS and TAR respectively) and about which I had done a literature review in 2012). As the previous blog analyses show, when you get to the substantive level these are different papers but when you look at the surface features, there is a lot of self-plagiarism at work. However, self-plagiarism at this level does not change the fact that the two papers make substantively different contributions to the literature. One cannot deduce the effects that the main independent variables will have relying only on one study: role differences, accountability/dilution effects and timeline presence and absence etc. The science is not compromised but the editorial process might have been.

So what should have been done? A correction should have been issued that stated that the two paper are related and should have referred to each other. The cross references should have been provided. Indeed, even the issue of extensive self-plagiarism could have been noted as long as it was clear that there are substantive differences in the papers. But as far as I can tell the published evidence does not suggest that there is any concern about the academic integrity of the scientific record nor that one should be wary of citing either article. If that is not the case, then the EAR Editor and the EAA Publication Committee have a duty to disclose substantially more detail in their note of concern. As I am an expert reader in this area and I cannot tell based on the articles published and the “note of concern” that there is any reason that either article should not be cited then what would the non- expert reader do.  Retractions and concern are a signal to be wary of the science!  That is what retraction and notes of concern are all about – ensuring the integrity of the academic record not bolstering the editorial processes of journals!

As an academic community we have to get better at this. So far we have been like a group of clowns – the TAR original retraction but no reference from the AAA to Bentley U to insure it was investigated, the delayed CAR retractions, the long running ‘star chamber’ process at the AAA with respect to all the Hunton publications, JAR’s protracted processes on the same issue and now to the mix we add the EAR‘s potential misuse of a notice of concern.

I do not have all the answers but boy I do know we are capable of doing better than this!!!!!!

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