Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Conference season approaches – advise for junior faculty and PHD students

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Despite the geographical differences conference season appears to be nearly the same all over the world.  Europe (this year June but can be as early as April), Canada (June), USA (August), Australia-New Zealand (July), and others all hold their “national” conferences in the period May to August along with a large number of targeted conferences from those based on journals, to those based at universities, to broader functional area conferences like GMARS (Global Management Accounting Research Symposium) and ISAR (International Symposium on Audit Research).

So how to select conferences to attend and what should you do there as a junior scholar (the term I will use to denote junior faculty and PhD students).  I will outline some general considerations and follow up with specific points over the next couple of weeks.

  1. Smaller conferences generally allow you better exposure.  It sounds counter-intuitive but a conference of 120 to 300 people allows you to seek out and meet with both peers and senior faculty members much easier than the larger conferences like the AAA and EAA.  Now of course, going to a smaller conference means much greater preparation and investigation to ensure that people you want to meet will be there.
  2. Functional area conferences generally have higher quality papers and players involved than association conferences or minor journal conferences. I cannot totally explain it, but based on my observations at GMARS, ISAR, EARNet, Illinois Audit Symposium, Illinois Management Accounting Emerging Scholars, Kansas Audit Symposium,  etc these sorts of conferences seem to attract both senior people and emerging junior stars.  The exact types of people junior scholars want to meet with.  Further, the papers tend to be earlier in their development and hence closer to the cutting edge of research in the area.
  3. For PhD students, conferences with attached doctoral consortium are to be favored as long as you are able to attend the consortium.  This makes the EAA Conference much more valuable for those students who are able to be invited to the doctoral meeting.
  4.  “National” conferences are a great place to begin to understand the vagaries of the review process, have a chance to present and maybe, if lucky, get a little feedback on your work.  They tend to be more open to new scholars as they have many more slots available and the threshold for acceptance is generally top 50% of papers – so the screen is low.  But these conferences take even more preparation if you are going to benefit beyond the line item on your vita.
  5. Minor journal conferences are big gambles for junior scholars.  If you have a paper accepted there, fine – go and enjoy.  However, for junior scholars, unless you have a paper, it is not clear what you will get from the conference.  Often senior faculty present are only those that are associated with the journal and attend only if it is convenient for them.  The papers accepted have generally been rejected by multiple more senior journals so the value added from the conference depends critically on the insights of the discussant, not the paper presenter.  Unless these conferences are low cost to attend (both in time and money) a junior scholar needs to consider the cost benefit tradeoff carefully.

So now that I have insulted a bunch of people by giving my candid assessment of the overall picture for conference season – next to come is what does a junior scholar do to prepare for a conference?


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