Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Is it ever okay to . . . ?

One question I get from time to time should start with “Is it okay to . . . .”

I think that most of the time those who ask know the answer, and are asking to make sure! These are the folks that I do not worry about, albeit I am at times surprised that they ask!

Today’s question is, “It ever okay to review or edit a paper that it can be plausibly argued you have a competing paper with whether in process or under review?”

The answer is clearly NO. ( if this troubles you please enroll in a remedial ethics course immediately and take no actions that involves others until you have complete it!). There are no ways to mitigate the conflict of interest in this setting.

Yet unfortunately as a senior faculty member I have seen enough cases at senior academic journals to know it occurs away too often. While I do not take such claims at face value I have been privileged enough that some show me the reviews and the editors letters that make it clear, on the balance of the probabilities ( the civil standard) and in some cases, beyond a reasonable doubt ( the criminal standard) that such things are occurring.

We need a process to report these folks that is open and transparent. Yes we need to allow for those who always blame others for their rejections ( and there a more than a few of those around), but we also need to police this scourge of accounting academica.

The Management accountants reign in Canada

Well, in addition to management accountant Alan Webb editing CAR, the CAAA announced the management accounting Professor Leslie Berger will take over as Editor in chief of CAR’s younger sibling, Accounting Perspectives!

Leslie is a junior version of Alan, not surprising since she was his doctoral student!

Leslie also dabbles in audit research and has been a mainstay of the new doctoral program at Wilfred Laurier University where she mentors several students.

Interesting thing about Waterloo the city?! Two doctoral programs in accounting just across the LRT tracks from each other. Must be something in the water (as there is no fluoride if I remember from my days there).

Congrats to Leslie! She is taking a big risk as a relatively new associate professor and I with her well! For more on Accounting Perspectives see

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/19113838

On the Webb!

Well the CAAA finally made it official – Alan Webb of Waterloo is the Editor in chief of Contemporary Accounting Research elect!

Alan, a great management accounting scholar and current President of the MAS, ( but who has also dabbled in Audit research) is an excellent choice! Alan, like me, is a Maritime grounded no nonsense sort of guy! Unlike me, he has the political skill to deal with the CAAA Board, so he will do well.

After Mike Welker has worked so hard to restore CAR as being author friendly, it is good to see that in Alan we have another author friendly EIC. What do I mean by author friendly? Focus on service to authors rather than focusing on their own timetables. I can readily predict there will be no eight month waits between editor acceptance and EIC finalizing under Alan.

Good luck et bonne chance, Cher ami!

Climate science and accounting

What can Accounting and auditing do for climate science?

Not an easy question to answer. While there is a lot of CSR measurement related research going on in accounting, it is often from the investor point of view! But we are all in this together, and investors are not going to be able to isolate themselves from effects of climate that science interprets for us. Can CSR researchers move beyond this?

On the auditing side the answer may be a bit easier. We urgently need assurance that is credible over the various climate related reports that are regularly released and updated. There is a lot of skepticism about these reports, especially in the USA, and it appears to me that even compilation assurance about what is reported in the underlying academic climate research is needed. You often hear statistics like 97.x percentage of academic climate research says this. Those of us brought up in democracies are almost always wary of such high levels of consensus, but that is not true in science where much of it is based on 99.9999%. However, we need decision makers to act on this information and if there are doubts about its accuracy, assurance maybe the way to go.

Management accountants need to develop reporting systems in their firms that quantify’s the effects of various scenarios on operations and assets value. If a two foot rise in sea level is going to put half of your warehouse under water with a 90% probability, would it not be a good idea to plan for this rather than be surprised one day. You see many climate science models do not predict continuous gradual shifts but discontinuous large scale short timeframe shifts.

Anyhow things for us to think about and for younger researchers maybe even to act on.

Warning – software change affecting accounting researchers

Wow! Now that is an ambiguous title for a blog post!

But accounting researchers who are or will be submitting articles, reviews and editing decisions over the next six months to a year – BEWARE. The AAA is converting from Allentrack paper management software to an Editorial Manager based system because it appears they have no choice! Allentrack will not be supported for new submissions in 2020 by the good folks at Allentrack.

What this means is a massive increase in workload for AAA staff, lots of chances for senior editors, editors and reviewers to make mistakes when they think they are being responsive and lots of potential for authors submitting papers to have their papers lost or delayed due to process issues.

So be forewarned and forearmed. Read those acknowledgements, pesky as they are, carefully over the coming year STARTing now! Check and recheck what you submit to the system.

and May the Force be with you! ( non English first language readers note, a take off from Star Wars movie)

Management accountants – partying like it is 1999

There is no doubt that the management accounting section is one of, if not the best, run section of the AAA. And JMAR, despite its problems with MAR, is moving up as well given it is now produced three times a year!

However, when it comes to communicating research to practitioners, the management accountants have caught up with the Audit Section, at least where the Audit Section was in 1999! Back in the heady days around Y2K ( young’uns look it up) the fast talking man from Boston College ( who bookended his career at Northeastern – coming and going), Arnie Wright, convinced the Journal of Accountancy to buy into research! The J of A is the captive Journal of the AICPA ( back in the day when the I stood for Institute not International). What Dr. Wright had done was classic, he convinced the AICPA to give him one page of the magazine per issue where he curated “Practice Summaries” mainly, but not exclusively, drawn from AJPT articles! ( Full disclosure – I encouraged this, loudly supported it, and thought it would show the usefulness of academic research to practitioners!)

Fast forward 20 years! The Management Accounting Section is celebrating the commencement of a series of two page articles in Strategic Finance, the captive journal of the IMA ( where the I still stands proudly for Institute)! Once again, it it’s devoted to practitioner friendly versions of academic management accounting articles. While they allow for the possibility that someone might write a literature summary, they like the Audit Section are initially focusing on single article practitioner translations!

Yet we all know one research article is not the basis for making decisions, don’t we??? Indeed, even Einstein’s greatest research did not warrant that!

In the end, this single article focused translation series, like the auditing Practice Summaries in Journal of Accountancy, will be evaluated by the editors after two or three years, be found to be the least valued section of Strategic Finance by the readers, and dropped from the magazine! Indeed, according to rumour, the Practice Summaries were the least read regular column in J of A in the three years they were run!

Remember the chicken and the egg from last Monday? We continue to show we are farmers concerned with the unit produced, not businesspeople focused on selling to a market of consumers. And likely we again will end up with egg on our face!

Scheduling at AAA – internationals last?

As I scanned the last afternoon’s program of the AAA Annual Gabfest I noticed an interesting and potentially disturbing trend. Across many of the sections’ program tracks there was a what appears to be a much greater than chance that most if not all the slots were filled with international based authors’ papers and had either US doctoral students or international based faculty as discussants. Indeed at the last coffee break of the conference it looked like a replacement for the recently cut “international reception”. Could there be implicit or explicit bias at work here??? Given the political culture of the USA with America First, it should not be surprising.

Speaking of the International Reception being cut, it was a painless way for the AAA to reduce conference costs. After all international members are very unlikely to complain as we are guests of your association, despite the fact that we seem to do a disproportionate amount of the heavy lifting in some sections. When I started coming to the AAA as a Canadian based assistant professor in 1993, at first I found the idea of an international reception to be a bit strange, especially in the days before 911 and more recently President Orange Hair. However in the last decade I found it an important and useful networking event rather than trying to find international colleagues among the assembled minions.

In the end there is nothing wrong with either of these moves in light of the USA first political culture in the US. But do NOT pretend that the AAA is an international organization any longer, it is a US national association that accepts international members.

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