Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Monthly Archives: February 2015

War on two fronts!!!!

Okay, I might be overstating it in calling it a “war” but at times that is what I feel like I am in.  A “war” against intellectual narrowness and a belief that their chosen method is the one right way and it has to be practiced according to the tenants of their “faith.”  At time I wonder if in signing up for life as accounting researcher I did not realize I was entering into a set of churches – each with their own prophets – be they located in economics departments, psychology departments or sociology/philosophy departments!

When I first went to Europe in 1995 or thereabouts, I was surprised at the lack of experimental research at the European Accounting Association Congress.  Indeed, the closest thing I could find was postal surveys that might contain deliberate differences in wording.

At the same time at the American Accounting Association Annual Meeting I had a very difficult time in finding a section that would allow me to present my recently completed field research that was eventually published in CAR.  Luckily the ABO section existed and still had a fair size field research crowd among its members (who unfortunately drifted away over the years but I hope they come back given BRIA’s new found commitment to diverse research since Theresa Libby’s editorship – and guess what – Rick made me Associate Editor is charge of such research (informally) so it you submit a field study to BRIA it will receive sympathetic attention – but I digress).

Ever since then, relatively quietly as an assistant professor (but loudly compared to the average assistant professor) and more and more noisily as I moved up the academic hierarchy I have been involved in both using for myself and facilitating others use of field research methods in North America.  Not an easy “war” but one that seems to be entering a more successful phase if the interest in doctoral students that I have found in major state (and occasionally private) US universities in field research is any indication.

Yet in Europe, where I have spent some time since 2009, experimentalists of all stripes, feel like they are still relatively isolated even in countries where I would have thought they would feel comfortable (i.e. the Netherlands).  Hence, a group of European based experimental researchers has felt the need to set up a research network (much like the audit researchers felt they needed to go around the EAA some fifteen years ago to create EARN-net) to create a community of practice.  That community’s first effort is a doctoral forum where they exceeded their planned enrollment of 25 (which was sold out in less than a day after announcement) with 42 registrants that they had to cut off enrollment (after less than two days).  So with great humility, as I do not like sticking my nose into the affairs of other’s home organizations (more for fear that being in North America we do not want the American elephant rolling over the Canadian Academic Accounting Association’s mouse) and with one of the organizers of the experimental European network, I proposed to Christine Cooper (the Chair of the EAA Congress 2015) that perhaps a session on experimental research be offered at the PhD Forum that takes place for a half of day (NOTE:  This is not the EAA Doctoral Symposium which is an invite only three day affair offsite from the EAA that takes place before the opening of the Congress) before the start of the EAA Congress!  Happily, everyone including the organizers of the Forum welcomed this initiative!  And all systems are go for Victor Mass and I to do an hour at this event!!!!

So the “battle” continues – and it is going well from my perspective.  Those who see the glass as half empty mourn the fact that a battle has to take place.  Those, like myself, who see the glass as half full – are happy with the progress we are making on both fronts – albeit wishing for greater speed.  More about the success of field research in North America in another post.

Rediscovering your inner researcher

Hi folks,  sorry for the two months absence but the move to Gainesville was challenging in many ways combined with trips to the Management Accounting Conference in LA and the Audit Mid Year meeting in Miami!  Then I had to pay for my supper – so to speak – by giving a workshop at Florida (thanks folks for being a great audience); setting up a three part doctoral seminar on field research and working on getting our textbook back in print with Robert!  Also did a little thingee called an SSHRC grant application!!!!

But my first message back is one that might appeal to any academic (or student) who has not been doing research (for a while or learning to do it for the first time), whether they were taking heavy administrative or editorial responsibilities or whether they are a doctoral students learning to be researchers.   In my case I found the transition from being an Editor back to being a researcher hard even though I had published (with co-authors) at least one substantive piece of research every year  I was editor.  However, I found the transition back to being a researcher not going smoothly until I realized that the skills that one has as an administrator (being in departmental or editorial in nature) or as a young professional are almost orthogonal to being a social science researcher.

Why?  The pace of life is very different.  Being a good social science researcher means being able to devote long hours of uninterrupted time to thinking about research issues from theory to design.  It also means being able to have enough focus in the rest of your life that research ideas can percolate at the back of your mind while doing other things – be it attending sports events, plays, doing exercise. teaching etc.  In other words you just cannot be so distracted with everyday life that only when you are deliberately focused on a project that you are cogitating about it.  Yet life as an administrator or young professional is full of short focused tasks that take complete concentration with little time for reflection.  Your life in those venues is divided in one hour or smaller sets of time and require complete focus on those tasks!  No time for background thinking here.  Plus you get used to the rush of moving from task to task including being able to cross them off your list rather than spending hours on  a single task.

So, I have relearned some valuable old lessons about how to focus on research, how to be present and active in other parts of my life but to allow for background thinking about research, I have learned that the rush of getting things wrapped up in an hour or two or three and the good feeling that goes with that is not something that happens when one is doing serious research.  In other words, I have transitioned back from the dark side of the force of academic life (i.e. administration or editing) into the world of a teacher/researcher.  In many ways this is what I see doctoral students struggling with every day.  How not to get caught up solely in the web of tasks they are assigned – R.A., teaching, courses etc – and how to learn to focus on developing research ideas that are of substantive interest.

From sunny and warm Florida,

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