Bridging The Gap Between Academic Accounting Research

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Bridging the Gap between AcademicAccounting Research and Professional Practiceedited by Elaine Evans, Roger Burritt and James Guthrie

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia(the Institute) is the professional body representingChartered Accountants in Australia. Our reachextends to more than 67,000 of today’s andtomorrow’s business leaders, representing morethan 55,000 Chartered Accountants and 12,000of Australia’s best accounting graduates currentlyenrolled in our world-class Chartered Accountantspostgraduate program.Our members work in diverse roles acrosscommerce and industry, academia, governmentand public practice throughout Australia and in109 countries around the world.We aim to lead the profession by deliveringvisionary leadership projects, setting thebenchmark for the highest ethical, professionaland educational standards, and enhancing andpromoting the Chartered Accountants brand.We also represent the interests of members togovernment, industry, academia and the generalpublic by engaging our membership and local andinternational bodies on public policy, governmentlegislation and regulatory issues.The Institute can leverage advantages for itsmembers as a founding member of the GlobalAccounting Alliance (GAA), an internationalaccounting coalition formed by the world’spremier accounting bodies. With a membershipof over 800,000, the GAA promotes qualityprofessional services, shares information, andcollaborates on international accounting issues.Established in 1928, the Institute is constituted byRoyal Charter. For further information about theInstitute, visit Centre for Accounting, Governance andSustainability (CAGS) is an academic researchcentre located in the School of Commerce at theUniversity of South Australia. CAGS as a UniversityRecognised Research Group provides a concentrationof research experience. The Centre’s research expertiseincludes social and environmental accounting andreporting; carbon accounting and assurance; wateraccountability; corporate financial accounting,disclosure and governance; management accountingand performance management; management controlsystems; and sustainability accounting, assuranceand management.Fifty academic members and about 10 professional staffoffer administrative and research assistance on researchdesigned to make a difference to teaching and practice.CAGS has a close association with the Instituteand with accounting education. CAGS memberscurrently hold Australian Research Council DiscoveryGrants, are actively involved in Cooperative ResearchCentre projects, are recipients of a variety of othergrants and host national and international guests atresearch events.CAGS members are associated with editorships of threejournals: Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal,Journal of Applied Management Accounting Research,and Journal of the Asia Pacific Centre for EnvironmentalAccountability. The Centre has a successful ResearchPerformance Panel of International and National Visitorswho promote the development of research capacity andtalent in accounting, has an Advisory Board in place tofocus on the academic – practitioner interface, and is in theprocess of establishing an International Advisory Board.For further information about CAGS book presents the opinions and comments of the authors and not necessarily those of the Institute of Chartered Accountantsin Australia (the Institute) or its members. The contents are for general information only. They are not intended as professionaladvice – for that you should consult a Chartered Accountant or other suitably qualified professional. The Institute expresslydisclaims all liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information contained in this book.CopyrightA person or organisation that acquires or purchases this product from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australiamay reproduce and amend these documents for their own use or use within their business. Apart from such use, copyright isstrictly reserved, and no part of this publication may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means without the writtenpermission of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia.ABN 50 084 642 571 The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia Incorporated in Australia Members’ Liability Limited. 0311-53ABN 37 191 313 308 University of South Australia.

Bridging the Gap between AcademicAccounting Research and Professional Practiceedited by Elaine Evans, Roger Burritt and James Guthrie

All information is current as at June 2011First published 2011Published by:The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia33 Erskine Street, Sydney, New South Wales, 2000Centre for Accounting, Governance and Sustainability, University of South Australia37 – 44 North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia, 5000Bridging the Gap between Academic Accounting Research and Professional PracticeFirst editionNational Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data:Evans, Elaine.Burritt, Roger.Guthrie, James.The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia.Bridging the Gap between Academic Accounting Research and Professional Practice/E. Evans, R. Burritt and J. Guthrie, editorsISBN: 978-1-921245-85-5 (pbk.)Accounting – PracticeDewey Number: 657

PrefaceThe Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia recognises the importance of tertiary educationfor building a sustainable long-term accounting profession in Australia. An important part of tertiaryeducation is the ability to produce world-class accounting research that, in part, is relevant topolicy making and professional practice. In taking a leadership role on this issue, the Institute hascommissioned this publication, produced in collaboration with the Centre for Accounting, Governanceand Sustainability in the School of Commerce at the University of South Australia, a recognisedworld-class academic research centre.I welcome this new publication, which is the second thought leadership book based on ourcollaborative arrangement. The forum on ‘The Relationship between Academic Accounting Researchand Professional Practice’ was held in Adelaide in February this year when leading Australian andoverseas academics, practitioners, public policy representatives and Institute members gatheredand openly debated the need for relevance and the importance of an understanding of the impactof academic accounting research.Contemporary knowledge about the relationship is revealed in the current book, which comprises18 authors drawing deeply into the many complex issues linking accounting research and theaccounting profession. The Institute recognises the important role of accounting research and thepotential costs to the accounting profession and the wider community if academic accounting researchloses its relevance or does not have a demonstrated impact on public policy or practice. The currentbook will contribute to an on-going dialogue between academics, practitioners and public policymakers concerning the key challenges facing accounting academic research in 2011 and into the future.I am pleased to note the progress the Institute is making towards our strategic objective of investingin accounting research measures, which includes support for academics in terms of research funding,participation in wider community debates and representation at the highest levels in government. Ourinvestment in aligning our organisation, in part, to the needs of accounting academics and transformingour links with the academic community is an important platform for continued dialogue and debate.I commend the academic and practitioner contributors to this book, for their detailed discussion onvarious aspects of accounting research relevant to the profession, and wish the various stakeholderssuccess in their continued debates on this important issue.Graham MeyerChief Executive OfficerThe Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia

PrefaceAs Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Innovation at the University of South Australia it gives mereal pleasure to provide a preface to this important text. There is no doubt that delivery of world-classresearch in key disciplines is at the heart of every university’s mission but there is also no doubt that itis research which informs, and is informed by, professional practice that will deliver innovation of valueto major professions such as accounting. It is therefore critically important to provide opportunitiesfor high-level engagement between academic and professional practitioners to discuss the evidencebase, which supports a strong research agenda of direct relevance to the challenges of professionalpractice. So, a forum which sets out to target and bridge the gap between academic accountingresearch and professional practice is the ideal platform to support practice that will enable Australia tohave a strong, sustainable base for accounting that is ready for the long haul and positioned to addressthe sustainability, environmental and social issues of our time. Any intelligent bystander reflectingon the role of failures in regulatory and corporate governance practices in the genesis of the globalfinancial crisis would welcome a forum where senior academic and accounting professionals seekto combine and leverage their insight, knowledge and experience to improve organisational practiceand financial reporting.An impressive feature of the leadership forum on which this book is based was that the right peoplewere in the room; this has ensured that the voices of the most senior and innovative leaders in the fieldare represented in this volume of proceedings. Some of the fierce debate around the identification andsource of the major gaps in the relationship between accounting research and professional practice hastranslated from the presentations into the accompanying text and importantly the recommendations ofwhat actions might be required to bridge those gaps are also highlighted.I am delighted that the Research Centre for Accounting, Governance and Sustainability at the Universityof South Australia has partnered with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia to support thiskey forum and the proceedings arising from it – an effective collaboration is one that is most likely tolead to productive and valuable outcomes. I do hope that in a relatively short time it will have becomeclear that this volume captures a landmark event, one which has acted in different ways to catalysechanges in practice and outcomes which have been recognised as being of real value across theAustralian accounting community.Professor Caroline McMillenDeputy Vice Chancellor: Research and InnovationUniversity of South Australia

ContentsChapters1. The Relationship between Academic Accounting Research and Professional Practice . . . . . . . . . . 9James Guthrie, Roger Burritt and Elaine Evans2. Accounting Research, Policy and Practice: Worlds Together or Worlds Apart?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21Richard Laughlin3. The Relationship between University Research and Firm Innovation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31Göran Roos and Stephen Pike4. Connecting Tax Research and Practice: The Past, Present and Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51Margaret McKerchar5. Bridging Accounting Research and Practice: A Value Adding Endeavour. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59Keryn Chalmers and Sue Wright6. Engaging with and Extending Organisational Practices:The Potential of Management Accounting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69Suresh Cuganesan and Len Gainsford7. Audit Research and Practice: A Dialogue on Relevance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82Philomena Leung, Lee White and Barry Cooper8. Leveraging Academic Research to Improve Financial Reporting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94Tyrone Carlin9. Leveraging Academic Research to Improve Financial Reporting:A Standard-setter’s View . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103Kevin Stevenson10. Sustainability Accounting Research and Professional Practice: Mind the Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110Roger Burritt and Joanne Tingey-Holyoak11. Sustainability Research and Practice: Bridging the Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120Geraldine MagareyList of Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1247

8Bridging the Gap between Academic Accounting Research and Professional Practice

Chapter 1The Relationship between AcademicAccounting Research and ProfessionalPracticeJames Guthrie, Roger Burritt and Elaine EvansAccounting research is often conceived as applied research in that the focus of study is made up oftechnologies and technical practices used by accounting practitioners in social and organisationalsettings. This stands in marked contrast to the physical sciences where the focus of study is mainlyphysical matter. At the international level, research is generally a requirement for accounting academiccareer progression, and an important contributor to the development of knowledge and scholarship(Wright and Chalmers, 2010).The impact of research in some disciplines is easy for the lay person to comprehend, such as inmedicine, where advances in medical procedures and development of new drugs result in benefits tosociety. For accounting, this impact is not so easy to discern (Tilt, 2010). For instance, in the field ofaccounting there have been claims that research has become too far removed from the interests ofthe profession and practitioners. Researchers in turn point to the shortcomings of current professionalpractices. Indeed, some in the accounting research community go so far as to consider that manypractical issues of concern to professional accountants do not warrant the attention of researchers(Singleton-Green, 2010).The main purpose of this book is to report on a Forum that investigated contemporary challenges in therelationship between academic accounting research and professional practice in Australia. In particular,the various contributions discuss the interface between the academy and the profession in determiningfuture directions. Its objective is to provide a foundation for open discussions on possible strategies,issues and changing skill sets for accounting graduates, accounting academics and higher educationproviders, by identifying major challenges and strategies for addressing them.Each chapter presents a wide variety of challenges and solutions, including those faced by accountingresearchers, policy makers and practitioners. It is difficult to distill only a few challenges, but thefollowing few are highlighted: The accounting profession is made up of three parts – research, policy and practice – thereforewithin the broad profession of accounting there needs to be more communication and coordinationbetween practitioners, policy makers and academic researchers Professional associations have an important role to play in transmitting academic research findingsto practitioners The different time horizons of academic researchers and practitioners are a major contributor to thegap between research and practice Academic research papers are difficult to read and understandBridging the Gap between Academic Accounting Research and Professional Practice9

More direct contact between academics and practitioners would improve the quality ofacademic research Academic research is typically orientated towards other academics, rather than practitioners Academics have limited incentives to undertake research that is focused on practice Joint seminars between academics and practitioners are likely to enhance the relevanceof academic research to practitioners More education in undergraduate university programs about the value of academic researchis likely to enhance the relevance of academic research to practitioners.The following is a brief introduction to each of the further 10 chapters in this book.Richard Laughlin’s chapter questions the relationship not as a ‘gap’ that needs to be ‘bridged’, butrather in a more open ended way considering whether accounting research, policy and practice are‘worlds together or worlds apart’ and what the answer to this question implies for the elements thatconstitute the profession. In conclusion, he indicates that not bringing these worlds together runs therisk of losing the societally-sanctioned status of being seen as a profession with all the associatedprivileges and respect. His chapter makes clear that it is accounting research, policy and practice thatconstitute the accounting profession. Put simply and directly, all three elements need to work togetherand, through discourse, agree and accept, at an institutional level, the respective roles, responsibilitiesand interrelationships (with the other elements), if the profession is to continue to survive and prosperand offer the services it should in societies throughout the world.Göran Roos and Stephen Pike in their chapter, ‘The Relationship between University Research and FirmInnovation’ discuss the definitional issues concerning research and innovation and the importance ofinnovation to economic value creation. They find that the interaction between universities and firms isless effective and efficient than is commonly assumed, especially by policy makers, and they identifyareas of concern and suggestions for improving the situation.In her chapter, Margaret McKerchar considers the connection between tax research and practice andobserves that the connection between the two worlds does exist and is quite robust. However, whetherthe connection could be strengthened and thereby made more effective, and the strategies by whichthis might be achieved, were both questioned. She concludes with a discussion of a number of thestrategies to make a tighter connection between the two worlds. These include funding, which is likelyto remain an issue for research, as is balancing competing demands in the university environment.While professional bodies, government and statutory bodies can be valuable sources of researchfunds and support, they can also provide access to otherwise unattainable data, and/or to subjectsfor fieldwork studies and the like. Again, these are important reasons why tax research should beconnected to practice, assuming that the researcher is not compromised in doing so.Keryn Chalmers and Sue Wright in their wide-ranging chapter highlight that the bridge betweenaccounting education and practice is one by which the work of academics and of practitioners botheffectively impact upon each other. However, they argue that the bridge between accounting researchand practice is less well-constructed and less effective than it could be. It is often asserted thataccounting research lacks practical relevance, thereby losing potential impact from the academic to10Bridging the Gap between Academic Accounting Research and Professional Practice

the practitioner community. Their chapter presents a summary of the dialogue on the ‘research gap’,particularly as it relates to accounting. It discusses the identity and extent of the gap, and the roles ofthe accounting academy, practitioners and professional organisations, firstly in b

Bridging the Gap between Academic Accounting Research and Professional Practice First edition National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data: Evans, Elaine. Burritt, Roger. Guthrie, James. The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia. Bridging the Gap between Academi

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