Academic journal article The Accounting Historians Journal

Patterns of Research Productivity and Knowledge Creation at the Accounting Review: 1967-1993

Academic journal article The Accounting Historians Journal

Patterns of Research Productivity and Knowledge Creation at the Accounting Review: 1967-1993

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper presents an analysis of author productivity in The Accounting Review for the period 1967 through 1993. The stratification observed in other disciplines is evident and is associated with a set of "elite" schools. The most productive authors in TAR are dominated by graduates of these schools. It is also the case that these elite authors increasingly rely on other social science disciplines, notably financial economics and cognitive psychology, for producing accounting knowledge. Evidence is also provided which indicates that the process of elite formation at TAR is more consistent with the use of particularistic rather than universal criteria. There is a paradigm consensus in the U.S. academic community, which is contrary to what would be expected in a low-paradigm consensus field like accounting. The possible contribution of the AAA in forcing this consensus is discussed.


Accounts of the American Accounting Association's (AAA) history by both Zeff [1966] and Flesher [1991] provide documentation of the central importance of accounting research to the mission of the (AAA). Like all business disciplines in the academy, accounting has become quite autonomous from practice over the last 30-40 years [Whitley, 1988]. With autonomy has come a notable change in the form of accounting research. Stephen Zeff, a former editor of The Accounting Review (TAR), commenting with concern about this change in the form of accounting knowledge, observed that the increasing rigor of accounting research methods (which began in the 1960s) was directing attention to narrower questions leaving the big, important questions largely ignored [Zeff, 1978, p. 133].

From a contemporary vantage point, the denouement of this change in the form of academic accounting knowledge seems paradoxical.' Recently, a group of elite, U.S. accounting researchers issued a white paper entitled "A Statement on the State of Academic Accounting" in which they declared, "There is a widespread sense among accounting researchers and practitioners that academic accounting, particularly on the research level, currently faces a serious crisis" [Demski, et. al, 1991, p. 1]. This sentiment was reflected in Gary Sundem's presidential message calling for a Copernican revolution in accounting theory [Sundem, 1993], and Andy Bailey's presidential message a year later reflecting the "crisis" in his appeal for tolerance of the editorial process of the AAA's journals [Bailey, 1994]. There seems to be an acknowledged problem with the process of knowledge creation in the accounting academy, but there has yet been little systematic analysis of that knowledge process and how it may be contributing to the alleged crisis.

Much research under the rubric of the sociology of science has revealed that a characteristic of the knowledge production processes of virtually every academic field is stratification. That is, the great bulk of knowledge created, primarily in the form of scholarly texts, is done by a small proportion of the scholars in the field. Fields are hierarchical, controlled by an elite whose reputations are established by virtue of the quantity and quality of scholarly output they produce. Elite status affords individuals the power to control the access of others to the media through which a field's knowledge is disseminated; elites control reputations and the ability to participate in the knowledge production process of the field.

In the United States, the AAA is the most visible and significant way in which the accounting academy is organized. It publishes The Accounting Review (TAR), which is the oldest and most widely circulated academic accounting journal in the United States.2 According to Hargens [1988, p. 139], scholarly journals are critical to any field because they are " . . . a means by which a community certifies additions to its body of accepted knowledge and means through which individual scientists compete for priority and recognition. …

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