Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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“Retractions, concern and corrections” RCC PART III


In order to appreciate this blog entry you need to read at least the previous day’s blog entry. Sorry.

When you go to write up two related experiments as described last day it is natural to use a lot of the same words to describe them in separate papers. The motivation for what you are doing is likely to be related given you are using the same experimental instrument (e.g. examining systems of multiple performance measures), the prior research that employs that instrument and focus is not going to change the describing of the past research literature to any great extent (Lipe and Salterio and the twenty some papers that followed from that), the experimental instrument description except for manipulation differences (remember the experiment was identical except for the theoretical differences (e.g., accountability and the dilution effect combined with role in one experiment versus strategic map content and strategic appropriateness judgment in the other) and the laying out of the basic research design is similar.

Unfortunately for the authors, they took absolutely no care with their use of words and paragraph after paragraph is highly similar between the two papers. Furthermore, the title of one paper is very similar to the other, indeed to the point that it is misleading in one paper as that title refers to the contextual variable (“strategy timeline”) that is NOT manipulated in the second paper (B’) BUT is a “sexy” idea (or as sexy as we get in accounting). Furthermore, the theory section describing the common variable (A) between the two studies is exceeding similar.

So in analogical reasoning we would say that there are a lot of surface similarities between the two papers. It is what COPE would call a case of “self-plagiarism” in almost all sections except where the theory was different and in the experimental results (which were different with a different set of participants and a different analysis based on the theory). Further, the authors did not refer to the other paper in the paper submitted to at least one of the two journals and it was not cross referenced in either of the published papers.

Bad boys (or girls) to be sure. Needing a clear rebuke from the editor – sure. Maybe a letter to the Deans of the various schools from the editor. Maybe banning the authors from submitting to the journal for a period of time.

BUT where does this fit on the COPE’s scale of “retraction, concern and corrections.” This is where we are in new ground in accounting and its seems to me that we do not yet understand the purpose of “retraction, concern and corrections.” The sole goal of this series of actions is to ensure that the scientific record is correct. In other words the results are not fabricated or being repeated across papers. That is the only goal of retraction, statements of concern and corrections. The goal is not to punish the author, that needs to be done by different means within the institution or professional society of the offending authors.

Next day, what was done in this case and why I question it!!!!!

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