Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management Accounting Research

Ivory Towers and Legal Powers: Attitudes and Behaviour of Town and Gown to the Accounting Research-Practice Gap

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management Accounting Research

Ivory Towers and Legal Powers: Attitudes and Behaviour of Town and Gown to the Accounting Research-Practice Gap

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper explores the perceived gap between accounting research and practice, by determining both 'attitudinally' and 'behaviourally' if accounting research: (1) has failed to lead practice in contrast to medical research; (2) lacks innovation; (3) has failed to arrive at solutions to the fundamental issues in accounting practice; and (4) has no demand outside of the university context.

The results of five interrelated studies presented in this paper support the overall finding of an ever growing gap, especially in financial accounting and auditing. This is in stark contrast to the healthy relationship found between academia and practice in the medical profession. The gap appears to be less in management accounting.

Steps provided to bridge the gap are that accounting academics should (1) be rewarded for writing case studies; (2) be recognised for writing in professional journals; (3) be encouraged by universities to do more consulting-based research; and (4) be provided opportunities to engage more with practitioners.

Keywords:

Accounting Research-Practice Gap Impact of Accounting Research Attitudinal vs. Behavioural Research Management Accounting Research Financial Accounting Research Auditing Research

Introduction

Calls to tie accounting research more closely to practice have been evident in the literature for at least the past 50 years. Sterling (1973) noted the tension at the interface of research and practice in the 1970s. This was as a result of accounting striving for recognition as a 'profession' rather than a 'trade'; and therefore as a legitimate academic discipline within universities. Prior to the 1970s, when accounting was first introduced as an academic pursuit, the focus was largely on the combination of academic and practice careers and addressing research issues that were, in the main, applied and practical in nature (Bricker and Previts, 1990). For example, inflation was a significant concern in the 1960s and academic publications of the time gave us numerous 'inflation accounting' approaches. Leading academic journals such as The Accounting Review published papers that solved such contemporary practical issues (see Chambers, 1967). In fact, Ray Chambers, whose research is widely acknowledged as leading the way in promoting accounting as a university discipline, focused on improving the practice of accounting by exposing the unsystematic practices of conventional accounting and the unserviceability of its product. Strengthening the necessary relationship between practice, research and education was the dominant and consistent theme in Chambers' work. His research output was voluminous; numbering over 230 articles and a dozen major books and monographs (Clarke and Dean, 1995). None of these papers, unfortunately, would have found a home in the leading current North American academic journals had they been submitted today. So what happened in the last 50 years? To answer this question, we first need to understand the methods (or 'means') and outcomes (or 'ends') of accounting research.

Accounting Research

Accounting research can be classified using a framework as depicted in Figure 1. On the Xaxis are the independent research approaches (i.e. 'means' or 'methods' of doing research) undertaken by both academic and practitioner researchers. Academic researchers tend to, by and large, delve in 'theoretical' research (via logically analysing a very broad issue) or 'empirical' research (via asking others for their attitudes or behaviour regarding a certain broad issue). Practitioner researchers tend to undertake 'practical' research (via gathering information on a very narrow issue) or 'empirical' research (via asking others for their attitudes or behaviour regarding a certain very narrow issue).

The outcomes (or 'ends') are depicted on the dependant Y-axis. These tend to be Descriptive (how the world is); Prescriptive (how the world should be); or Adoptive (how the world can be changed or has changed). …

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