Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Accounting research as a team sport?!?


When I became a full professor (many moons ago) the first thing I did was adopt the “lab” approach that is common in psychology.  The principle is simple:  researchers with a given area of interest commit to meeting together at defined intervals to discuss what they are working on and a detailed enquiry into some specific piece of work.

At Queen’s we adopted the research methods approach to organizing (alternatively one could organize by subject matter)  and our “lab” is called the “social and behavioral accounting brownbag.”  It is composed of the four faculty in the area and the six doctoral students as well as any visiting faculty, adjunct faculty or others that are interested in field or experimental research based on economic, psychology or sociology theories.  We commit to meeting four or five times a term, normally at intervals of three weeks.

A typical “lab” meeting is done over lunch, for two hours, and starts with a roundtable “update” by each person about what has been occupying their academic time (teaching/taking classes, research and service) since the last time we met (i.e. “the appetizer course”).

Then we delve into the “main course” that could be discussing a working paper by one of the members, previewing a presentation that a member wants to get feedback on (e.g. proposals, road shows), discussing a preliminary idea for carrying out research or discussing a particularly interesting article that someone suggests we might enjoy reading.

One of the keys to success is to be inclusive.  Everyone talks because they are asked to!  Further, we separate the discussion into two phases – what we like about the subject matter and then, after all have spoken on our likes – we move onto what accountants do best, constructive criticism.  To me, this two phase approach is an article of faith – when we drop it – we lose the constructive nature of the discussion.  Further, it makes us think deeply about what we like about the research – something that we have a hard time to do in accounting!!!

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