Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

The return of social and behavioral research in auditing

For quite a while now, it has been a bit depressing as a social and behavioral researcher attending ISAR.  In the early days (i.e. in the 1990’s) the room was dominated by experimental researchers.  Then came SOX and audit fee disclosures in the USA.  Gradually the experimental room grew smaller and smaller with the archival room getting larger and larger.  Finally, it became the norm that the plenary room would be the archival audit presentation room and the “extra” room would be the social and behavioral room (as we gradually got experimental audit into a broader headspace including surveys, case studies as well as experiments).  Further, this is not just an Australian thing as I have noticed this in the last two ISARS, social and behavioral research in auditing is back.  Indeed, this year the organizers made the mistake of putting social and behavioral in the other room which meant that the hotel staff had to bring int extra chairs and that the room was constantly crowded.  As Arnie once said “we’reeeeee backkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!”

Check out BRIA’s new home page

The ABO’s section webmaster, Michael Meyer, and I have colloborated on updating BRIA’s on line presence.  Check out the new site at

http://aaahq.org/ABO/Publications/BRIA

While not at 100% yet, we are hoping to consolidate all BRIA trafic to two entry points, the Allentrack site where you submit, do reviews, edit etc and the ABO site that contains all the needed background information about the journal.  So if you see a link that leads to an older BRIA site, please inform the webmaster and we will try to get the link fixed.

Conferences, conferences . . . . . .

When I start a Senior Editor gig (or an EIC in the british world) I like to get out and chat with editorial board members, editors, and potential authors early in the term.  While we have all sorts of virtual communication, nothing quite does it like in person.  As you read this post, I should be in Australia where over the next three weeks I will attend three conferences.  First up is ISAR (International Symposium on Audit Research), then GMARS (Global Management Accounting Research Symposium) and finally AFAANZ’s Annual Conference (the Oz/Kiwi version of the AAA with dancing/dining).   I will be presenting and discussing papers, sitting on panels, attending doctoral consortiums etc during this fun packed three weeks (followed by a ten day vacation to recover).  So if you are there, please say hi!

Next up will be a couple of visits to Europe.  As I am a very poor traveller outside of North America, that will likely be it albeit I would not rule out a visit to Asia proper if the right invite came along.

And finally . . . . focus on methods

Compared to other disciplines, there is relatively little methods work published accounting, especially in the experimental world but also in the positivist field study area (lots of interpretive methods research published in AOS, CPA, AAAJ etc – we have no competitive advantage here but we welcome it if authors think they want to convey something to a broader audience.).  While discussion/theory based pieces are welcome, I would like to see methods pieces that critically engage with data, either to illustrate how to do something better or to show alternative understandings about conclusions drawn from methods we already know.  Two examples from my own recent work illustrate this.  First, the field methods piece in BRIA (Kenno, McCracken and Salterio 2017) that not only provides guidance for carrying out field research in financial accounting but also provides a concrete example based on a study that was carried out.  Second, the reanalysis of data using methods like structural equations modeling (SEM) that allow us to learn more about previous experiments.  Christopher Koch (one of our editors) and I did this in a forthcoming TAR (Koch and Salterio 2017 September) piece that reanalysed data from a Kadous et al 2002 paper using SEM techniques to substantially expand our understanding of their results in addition to corroborating the results of a new experiment (the latter would not have to be done in a methods piece as I envision them for BRIA).

What will we do? . . . . field research

Another area where BRIA can improve its positioning is in the area of field research.  If the old idea that BRIA is “an AOS of North America” is to have any meaning, we need to do a better job of representing field research in our journal.  To do this I have appointed two editors, Bertrand Malsch and David Smith, along with ten editorial board members who are familiar with field research to show that we are open for business in this area.  Forthcoming research in CPA (critical perspectives on accounting) shows that lack of publishing a particular paradigm in a senior journal (TAR versus CAR) is not just a supply problem (i.e. researchers not submitting work to that journal) as commonly claimed by TAR Senior Editors but also a demand problem (i.e. the journal demonstrating that it is open to that type of research).  While I always thought this was the case, the paper documents this carefully by analyzing the composition editors and editorial board structures of TAR and CAR over a long period of time. They show that what is published in CAR reflected, with appropriate publication lag, changes in the paridigm based composition of CAR’s editorial board.  TAR’s editorial board changed as well, becoming narrower and more financial accounting focused, resulting in the journal becoming more finanical accounting focused.  So, surprise surprise, both supply and demand affect production – who would have thought – an economist?

On another topic – accounting prof in top 10

According to Retraction Watch, former Bentley accounting professor James Hunton is now a solid 8 in the top ten retracted researchers.  Jim broke into the top ten a while ago entering the list tied for tenth but recent retractions has solidified his standing in the Top Ten by moving him to number 8.  While I almost always like to see accounting profs succeed, this is one top ten list I wish we did not have a representative on.

BUT, are accounting journal editors any more equipped and alert today then they were a decade ago to prevent or at least detect such fraud on the academy?  Sadly, I am not so sure.

What will we do? Scale validation!

One big change that I want to see come into being is to make BRIA the home for scale development studies so as to improve the quality of survey research in accounting.  In other disciplines there are journals that publish scale development and validation studies, but not in accounting.  Often, in accounting we attempt to substantively use a newly developed scale in the same study that the scale is validated.  The result is very poor exposition on the scale validation side and less than fulsome examination of the substantive issue.  I should know, I have been involved as a reviewer or editor in most of the scales that have been published in auditing and management accounting over the past fifteen years.  So I am guilty as the next person.

Note, I mean serious scale development and validation studies, ones that follow Churchill (1979) and beyond work on the steps to develop a properly validated scale.  Indeed, I wrote a little commentary in the last century (Salterio AJPT 1998) that reviewed Churchill’s approach and applied it to a scale development study by one of the former Editors of BRIA (Vicky Arnold). We have published in BRIA at least one of these scale validation studies before (albeit had that bothersome substantive question focus added) Gronewold and Donle (2011).  Other good examples are Anderson and Lillis in CAR (2011) and Hurtt (2010) AJPT.  Indeed, it would not be out of the question to re-examine older scales that were never subject to rigorous scale validation in order to see if we understand what we think we are measuring with them.  A nice overlap between replication and scale validation themes in the journal.