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AAA – the broom closet with no room for brooms

About a decade ago if you had held a panel session on qualitative accounting research at the AAA you could have held it in a broom closet with room left over. Today over 100 folks came to a panel discussion at the AAA on quality in qualitative research! Even better was the fact slightly less than half the room had done it and nearly 100% were interested in doing so!

Most of my readers are familiar with my views on research diversity and the need to use the most appropriate methods to identify and address practice issues. Field research enhances your engagement with the field of practice ( however you define practice). And with doctoral programs like Georgia, Illinois, UMASS Amherest all recently graduating PHD’s with this method in their toolkit, we may be on the verge of the breakthrough I have long advocated for in the USA. Further the placements of those students has been stellar Emory, WISCONSIN, Northeastern, and more.

This combined with the first qualitative interview paper being published in TAR in the last 30 years coming this fall, along with the combined survey interview research being done by Shiva Rajgopal (Columbia) and Michel Clements (Texas) and others in financial accounting published in JAE and JAR means the ” big 6″ Accounting journals ( however you define them from among TAR, CAR, AOS, JAE, CPA, JAR, MAR, AAAJ, AJPT, RAST) have all published such research in recent years – many with multiple articles!

And that’s the way I see it at the first day of work at the AAA.

New (or rather lack of) directions for audit research

As I said earlier in my blog there is a wealth of material backlogged from my European sojourn!

One of these were two audit research observations. First, by the one of the two or three most distinguished audit researchers in the world who suggested audit archival research was nearing the end of what it could accomplish. Second, the rather insipid discussion that totally lacked any passion until I intervened at the EAR panel on ” New Directions in Audit Research” held at the EAA (and I remind the panel members that most of them had invited me directly to get up and come to an 830 am panel – ask and ye shall receive)!

Frankly I think both are problematic, but for different reasons!

There is still a lot of room for new thinking on archival audit research, but the current generation needs to stop its chokehold on the editorial process that is making conforming normal science research choices dominant in archival audit research. Indeed, the current fascination of repeating the same studies at ever increasingly refined levels (coming soon American partner level studies that will repeat the investigations done in Australia (and elsewhere) and try to make small result differences seem like mountains not the ant hills they actually are) stifles any truly innovative research . Editors are doing the safe thing by accepting realms of turgid normal science dial tuning (turning would be calling it too great an innovation) in this realm setting a poor example for audit PHD students that this is what it takes to get published in the majors. These dial tuning studies do not belong in the top journals but should be the province of niche journals. At least in North America there is a strong trend by PhD students of following up on what is published in the majors hence causing a downward spiral of fine tuning in audit archival research. This may be why some of the most innovative audit archival research is being done in Europe where luckily there is some ignorance of, or ignoring of, the Anglo-Saxon rules of the publishing game. Let’s hope that continues as it is one sign of innovative research in the archival audit realm!!!

Next up, the qualitative quagmires of the ” New Directions” Panel!

What do you do at a conference?

In another post targeting at junior scholars (PhD students and junior faculty) I would like to make some suggestions about do’s and don’ts when going to the appropriate conferences for you (see previous post on choosing conferences).


  1. Stay for the entire conference.  Nothing makes you look less serious than turning up late or leaving early.  You can do that once you are established but it looks bad when you are the newbie on the circuit.
  2. Stay at the conference hotel.  You have already spent a lot of money to get to the conference, why make your networking harder by staying a an off-site hotel?  The little bit of money you save by staying offsite is more than lost in the time you lose going back and forth.
  3. Develop a list of people in advance that you want to network with. Potential co-authors, advisors, folks who can write letters for you in a few years (e.g. tenure letters), and people who are at the cutting edge in your area.  Going to a conference without a “hit” list results in you defaulting into one of the don’ts listed below.
  4. Figure out how you are going to locate the folks on your “hit” list.  Some you may be able to fix a meeting time in advance with (potential co-authors), others you may plan to attend their presentations and talk to afterward, others you attempt to locate at breaks (although this is the hardest) and some you locate through various receptions and smaller lunches (e.g. Section luncheons, university receptions etc).  The point is that you have a plan.


  1.  Do not stay exclusively in the circle of fellow or former PhD students or with faculty from the University you are currently at.  While it may seem “safe” to stay in the bubble of familiarity that cannot be the only outcome of your conference attendance.
  2. Do not hid in your room.  Yep it is tough to network especially as many of us are introverts but hiding in your room is not the solution.

As I think of more do’s and don’ts I will add to this list.  Add your own suggestions if you wish at the bottom!!!

Conference season approaches – advise for junior faculty and PHD students

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?

Evening 1 at US New Faculty Consortium

Wow what a difference a few years makes.  The NFC is now much more responsive to the entire population of schools that new faculty teach at in the USA.  Teaching loads vary from the minority at 3/0/0 and 2/0/0 to 3/3 and above with the mode and mean being the 2/2 load.

Mind you, based on the new faculty who were sent this year, diversity in US research is still a long way off. 71% are archival researchers and 58% are financial accounting even though less than 50% teach financial accounting.  Experimental research is still hanging in there at above its long term average at 25% (20% is long term).  But few case studies, field studies, surveys, and no history, . . . . . Dah, . . . . . .Does that not suggest that the production of PhD’s in the USA is more than a bit narrow in focus and not focused on the market realities.

The practice speaker was asked, how can we better influence practice. His response do a better job at studying human behavior of preparers, auditors etc.  Experiments, case studies, field studies, surveys and even history would provide some insights but with an audience of 71% archival researchers . . . . . .


EAA’s ARC (Accounting Research Center)

Got an invite the other day to write a post on another blog – the EAA Accounting Research Center ( blog.  The EAA ARC is designed to help strengthen the experience of European doctoral students and programs.  The mission is:

Motivated by the EAA’s key priority of stimulating the research productivity of doctoral students and junior faculty, our goal is for the Accounting Research Center (ARC) to develop into the EAA’s one-stop location for research resources and networking opportunities relevant for emerging scholars and others interested in accounting research.

However, the site attempts to be many things and I will have to spend more time then I have right now to figure out what is going on in it.  But one comment based on a quick read:  The point of a blog entry is to get in, make a short and to the point insight about an issue – hopefully memorable – not to write an essay, mini-thesis etc.  Hats off for effort to the organizers and the EAA.  When I get the time to understand it better, I will contribute.  Until then, enjoy the referrals from MOREbySteve.

Accounting as a team sport – 2

Last post was about an approach to accounting research that reduces the isolation that frequently occurs in a serious research department.  I introduced the idea of an area based (accounting subject matter, or research methods or research methodology – whatever works for your setting) informal meeting groups that allows members of an area of interest to spend some time together on those interests.

The advantages are huge in my mind:

  • it aids doctoral students and new faculty in being socialized into the local community of researchers
  • it helps with informal accountability as  no one wants to meet and say they accomplished nothing in the three or four weeks between meetings
  • it makes us aware of what our colleagues are doing and allows for suggestions about how things could be approached differently
  • it allows for a SAFE environment to experiment with early drafts of papers, research ideas etc.

While I know nothing is perfect, our brownbag group is the envy of many.

We can always find an excuse to say we are too busy, but if approached with good will and long term enlightened self-interest, this is an approach worth exploring – even for those rational utility maximizing folks.

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