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|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|10352||2010||13 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : The British Accounting Review, Volume 42, Issue 2, June 2010, Pages 75–87
This paper provides a broad review of the public sector accounting research in recent years, including that undertaken in the US. An analysis of this research reveals a methodological distinction between research undertaken in the US (using predominately functionalist methodologies, accompanied by positivistic quantitative research methods) and that undertaken in the rest of the world (using interpretive and radical/alternative methodologies, with qualitative research methods). The nature, causes and consequences of this distinction are discussed. The paper concludes with an exhortation for PSAR researchers to explore multiparadigmatic methodologies in future research.
Public sector accounting research (PSAR) has become a well established field with researchers publishing in dedicated journals such as Financial Accountability and Management (FAM), based in the UK and the Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting and Financial Management (JPBAFM) in the US. To a lesser extent PSAR is also published in other mainstream journals such as Accounting, Organisations and Society (AOS) and the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal (AAAJ). In addition in the UK the British Accounting Association (BAA) established a Special Interest Group (SIG) in PSAR in 1996 with the intention of encouraging research in this area and creating a network of researchers. The SIG has also funded PSAR throughout its history and recently the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has funded Research Programmes in the area. These initiatives have all helped to establish a healthy network of international PSA researchers. This paper is an attempt to summarise contemporary PSAR across the world and to use this analysis to identify issues and future possible directions for such research. There have been a number of literature reviews of PSAR in recent years but these have all been partial analyses, principally excluding US PSAR journals. Indeed, there have been no literature reviews of US PSAR research. This omission has arguably led to a lack of knowledge and appreciation of a significant body of PSAR. It may also contribute to an unfortunate example of ‘groupthink’ among both US and non-US PSA researchers, which, in turn, may have led to a closing down of legitimate research opportunities. This paper attempts to obtain a deeper understanding of the differences between the research approaches in the US and the rest of the world and of the paradigmatic isolation which both groups have adopted. Several researchers have noted the distinctive methodological approach of the US (Broadbent and Guthrie, 2008, Bromwich and Scapens, 2001 and Williams et al., 2006). This approach is certainly within the functionalist paradigm (Burrell & Morgan, 1979) adopting a positivistic methodology, often informed by neoclassical economics and relying on quantitative research methods. In contrast, non-US research is predominantly interpretive and critical, often informed by social theorists concerned with context and relies on qualitative methods. However, adoption of either approach should not be regarded as the only correct way, nor should it dismiss research undertaken with a different approach. In accounting research in general there is growing concern (Khalifa and Quattrone, 2008 and Reiter and Williams, 2002) with ‘the lack of recognition and communication across….paradigms resulting from the fragmentation and polarisation of accounting academia’ (Modell, 2009, p. 208). Moreover, the stranglehold these paradigmatic approaches hold over the research agendas can lead to insularity and limited research within each community. For instance little contextual research using interpretive methodologies is undertaken in PSAR in the US and little functionalist PSAR is undertaken elsewhere. The limiting effect this has upon the research agenda may be deepened by the tendency for functionalist researchers to address subject matter that is more immediately amenable to quantitative methods and interpretive/critical researchers to address subjects more amenable to contextual, qualitative methods. Yet another possibility for extending PSA research lies in the emerging interest in the broader accounting research community, in combining theories, methodologies and methods across paradigms, to enhance the research agenda (Brown and Brignall, 2007, Davila and Oyon, 2008, Hopper and Hoque, 2006, Locke and Lowe, 2008, Modell, 2005 and Modell, 2009). This paper addresses the gap in literature reviews of US PSAR, analyses and discusses whether and to what extent a paradigmatic dichotomy exits in PSA research in the US and elsewhere and examines the characteristics and consequences of such a dichotomy. Finally, the paper discusses the possibilities for releasing PSA research and researchers from these paradigmatic ‘bunkers’ by encouraging researchers to adopt approaches alongside those dominant in their own academic contexts and/or adopting multiparadigmatic approaches
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
When viewed globally, PSA research comprises a broad set of methodologies and topics covering the range of research approaches found across the social sciences. Moreover, many of the concerns about the lack of theoretically informed research expressed by Broadbent and Guthrie, 1992 and Broadbent and Guthrie, 2008 seem to be disappearing with an identifiable shift in emphasis in contemporary research away from description and towards such research. This was first noted by van Helden (2005) and this current analysis has shown an even greater shift towards theoretically informed empirical research. However a number of important issues emerge from this analysis which need to be addressed. The first is that the broad range of approaches is not evenly distributed across the world, but located in the two geographic paradigmatic bunkers. Williams et al. (2006) in their study of the winnowing away of behavioural accounting research in the US establish how one paradigmatic approach can come to dominate accounting research to the detriment of an entire field of study. They also suggest that such dominance can lead to stagnation within the discipline and exhort the need for methodological diversity, ‘the practice of accounting as an activity particularly recommends against univocality in how we understand it’ (p. 814). Whilst their concern was with the univocality of US accounting research the absence of positivistic PSAR elsewhere, could be evidence of a potential for developing a similar stagnation. Merchant (2008) offers a different perspective on alternative methodological approaches, from the standpoint of a mainstream (but sympathetic) US researcher. He criticises alternative research for not adequately identifying and communicating its contributions. He accepts that positivist research is blind to important issues but that it is making progress and adapting its theoretical approach. However both paradigmatic approaches are likely to develop if they work together rather than in isolated, confrontational opposition. He suggests closer cooperation: ‘The positivists’ research findings should also be incorporated into the (alternative) research agenda. Mainstream and (alternative) researchers should not be enemies. They have the same goal, to create knowledge, and on many of the same topics. There is considerable overlap between the literatures, and these literatures should be informing each other. You should not ignore the positivists' writings. An interdisciplinary, multi-method approach to research should lead to new insights. (Merchant, 2008, p. 907) The existence of two main, geographically distinct groups undertaking distinctively different PSA research in terms of both methodology and topics certainly leads to weaknesses in generalising the results of both groups. For instance there are several opportunities for extending the US PSAR into other contexts as outlined above. These include such areas as modelling of budgets and resource allocation, analyses of the factors which affect implementation success of costing, performance management systems and performance-based budgeting, aspects of auditing and the use of agency theory to inform empirical studies in settings beyond the US. Non US researchers are also encouraged to take up the opportunities offered by the interrogation of existing databases. Conversely, there are significant opportunities for US PSAR researchers to undertake alternative research, whether it be testing the existing interpretive and alternative findings beyond Europe, Australasia and Canada or research in new areas. However, as Merchant (2008) points out this is likely to be a difficult task given the hegemony of mainstream research in the US. There is also a danger of paradigmatic isolationism closing down possibilities for researchers in general. Khalifa and Quattrone (2008) and Williams et al. (2006) emphasise the role of academic elites and journal Boards, as well as that of doctoral schools, in establishing paradigmatic isolationism. Certainly, early career US PSA researchers and to a lesser extent such researchers in other countries may perceive that there is only one way to undertake research, particularly if they wish to be published. This limits the development of the research body and perpetuates narrow views as to what constitutes rigorous PSA research to the detriment of all. More acceptance and encouragement of alternative methodologies by established researchers and journal editors would enable a more vibrant culture to develop. As outlined in the introduction, another possibility for extending PSA research lies in the emerging interest in the broader accounting research community, in combining theories, methodologies and methods across paradigms. There has recently been a vigorous debate about the role and nature of interpretive accounting (Ahrens et al., 2008, Armstrong, 2008 and Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al., 2008). Whilst it is not the purpose of this paper to engage in this debate, one of its outcomes is the emerging view that the distinction between positivist and interpretive approaches is far from clear. If so, the philosophical and methodological objections to multiparadigmatic approaches may be dissolving. Modell (2009) offers a practical way forward to such approaches and advances a critical realist approach to mixed methods research which is a ‘potential way of bridging the polarized positions of the functionalist and interpretive paradigms in organisation and management studies (p. 209). Brown and Brignall (2007) explored the use of such an approach in the study of UK university central administration services. They concluded that dual methodology research may be complementary and assist the development of a unified body of knowledge. It is hoped PSAR researchers further explore such approaches in future research and that multiparadigmatic methodologies may lead to a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the subject area. In addition to the issue of paradigmatic isolationalism in PSAR, other important issues arose from the analysis. One such concern is the dominance of English speaking and North European based research schools, which provided 88% of the papers in this analysis. This is largely due to the position of these geographical areas in contemporary academia in general, as well as the use of English language in the journals included in the study. However, it is still a concern that large parts of the world are not engaged with PSA research and our understanding of PSA in these areas is woefully limited. Indeed in many developing countries it could be argued that their public sectors are even more important than those where research is vibrant, concerned as they are with issues of fundamental survival. Some of the most urgent issues in the world today are concerned with the alleviation of poverty and the public sector has a principal role to play. Accounting is a vital ingredient in this agenda and PSA can make a significant contribution by addressing such questions as what are the most effective mechanisms for allocating resources, how can performance management be improved in developing economies, and what is the role of audit in ensuring good governance and addressing issues of corruption. Such questions are of great concern in the development economics literature but as yet there has been little contribution from the PSA research community. It is also incumbent on the research active world to assist in the development of research schools and PSA research in other parts of the world to address this shortcoming and again to develop a truly comprehensive understanding of PSA. A concern for all PSA researchers is the continuing marginalisation of PSA research in the mainstream accounting journals. As can be seen above in the three year period 2005–2007 there were only nine PSA papers in AOS, five in MAR, four in the EAR and none at all in BAR. In the US there were only five in JAPP which was identified as one of the principal PSA journals by Lowensohn and Samelson (2006) and none at all in the other leading US journals. As the theoretical and empirical content of PSA research continues to improve it is hoped that more papers will appear in these journal and that PSA research, already well established on the conference circuit, becomes more established in leading mainstream journals. For a subject such as PSA, concerned with the practice of accounting, it is surprising and remiss, that there is relatively little engagement with the accounting practice community. This issue was also raised by Broadbent and Guthrie, 1992 and Broadbent and Guthrie, 2008, but has been highlighted by the current analysis. For instance, only 8% of the papers were concerned primarily with accounting issues per se, rather than economic or contextual analysis. Ironically, this issue probably arises from the demands of academia to produce research which is methodologically rigorous, as indeed is argued above. However, the practice community is more concerned with practical problems. Indeed, the current analysis omitted the JGFM, despite it being rated fourth in Lowensohn and Samelson's (2006) analysis of academic journal quality, on the grounds that it is directed more at a practitioner readership than an academic one. As noted above this high rating may be evidence of a closer relationship between PSA researchers and practitioners in the US than in the rest of the world. It is difficult to see how this dilemma can be overcome but perhaps adopting the US practice of academics contributing more to practice journals (such as Public Finance and Public Money and Management in the UK) together with the establishment of series of symposia linked to journal publication, would help. Related to the lack of engagement with practitioners is the lack of engagement with public policy implementation. Accounting researchers have a great deal of expertise to offer in this area and from the personal experience of the author there is large demand for such expertise. Again in the US, there are journals dedicated to this area such as the American Journal of Evaluation, Evaluation Review and Evaluation: The International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, yet very rarely do PSA researchers publish in them, nor is there an equivalent journal outside the US. It is also virtually impossible to publish papers in this area in the PSA journals. Such research also engages PSA researchers in multidisciplinary research, another contemporary lacuna. Again, this type of research tends to be undervalued by the PSA and broader accounting academic community, yet has much to offer in terms of a deeper understanding of our own subject and contributing to a broader understanding of the public sector as a whole. In summary, although the analysis of publications shows a vibrant research community in PSA using a broad set of methodologies and topics, there are still some major issues of concern.