ساختار و پیشرفت در تحقیقات حسابداری:بازبینی بحران در آکادمی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|10241||2002||33 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 27, Issue 6, August 2002, Pages 575–607
Doubts were raised within the accounting research program in the United States in the late 1980s about its progress and future potential. In this paper, we develop criteria for “good” scientific conversation, which leads to progress (defined as innovation and relevance). The key to this process is critical evaluation of background assumptions. The structure of scientific conversation in accounting and economics, whose theories and practices accountants adopted, are examined. We conclude that structural barriers result in a lack of adequate transformative critique, which contributes to the lack of progress in the accounting research program.
Doubts were expressed within the mainstream accounting research program in the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s about its progress and future potential (Demski, Douch, Lev, Ronen, Searfoss, & Sunder, 1991). The ensuing “crisis” in financial accounting research raises questions about how the progressivity and potential of research programs should be evaluated. This paper develops criteria for evaluation of the scientific conversation within a discipline (Arrington, & Schweiker, 1992, Longino, 1990, McCloskey, 1985, McCloskey, 1996 and McCloskey, 1998) and applies them to an assessment of the crisis in accounting. We argue that scientific progress is dependent on the quality of critical conversation within a discipline and that progress, defined as innovation and relevance, is an important feature of good science or good scholarship in general.2 The goals of science may be stated variously as “construction of comprehensive accounts of the natural world” (Longino, 1990, p. 32), “discovery of truth about the natural world” (p. 32), or the “search for descriptions of the natural world that allow for the prediction and control of an increasing number of its aspects” (p. 33). However, in the absence of an adequate critical conversation, particularly regarding the validity of background and contextual assumptions, disciplines become fixed and overly stable, no longer concerned with “the truth” (p. 224). Arrington and Schweiker (1992, p. 524) argue that “social forces within research communities can constrain possibilities for argument, innovation, and even action.” Emphasizing the structural components of the criteria for “good” scientific conversation, we investigate the US accounting academy to assess whether the “crisis” in financial accounting research may be due to self-limiting features of its scientific conversation. There was a revolutionary change in accounting research in the 1960s and 1970s from a so-called a priori, normative approach to an empirical, economic-based research program (Mouck, 1993, Mouck, 1995b and Wells, 1976). The beginning of this “accounting revolution” (Beaver, 1989) has been traced to the publication of Ball and Brown's (1968) study relating accounting earnings and market returns. By the 1980's, the positive accounting research program, based on positive economic theory (Watts & Zimmerman, 1986), dominated mainstream accounting research in the USA (Brown, 1996, Beaver, 1989, Mouck, 1995a, Rodgers & Williams, 1996 and Williams & Rodgers, 1995). The influence of positive accounting, which Chua (1996) calls the “empirical/calculative tradition,” has spread beyond North America and become a major global accounting research mode. Clarke, Craig, and Amernic (1999) document the prevalence of North American research methodologies in Australian doctoral research and Chua (1996, p. 137) observes that the empirical/calculative tradition has spread as graduates of North American universities have returned to teach and set up doctoral programs in non-Western and “dominion capitalistic” countries. Lukka and Kasanen (1996) review publications in six top journals3 from 1984 through 1993 and note that the “U.S.A. dominates the scene in many ways: U.S. data was used in 69% of papers; 70% of all authors came from the U.S.A.…”(p. 769).4 Nearly a generation after the publication of Ball and Brown (1968), mainstream US accounting academics were becoming troubled about the lack of success of the positive accounting research program. Critical and questioning reviews of the positive accounting research program were published by mainstream accounting researchers such as Lev, 1989, Bernard, 1989 and Abdel-Khalik et al., 1989. A group of researchers (Demski, Dopuch, Lev, Ronen, & Searfoss, 1991) who met under the auspices of the American Accounting Association to discuss the state of accounting research, produced a discussion document about the “serious crisis” in academic accounting. The document identified a number of specific symptoms of the “crisis”: 1. Unlike many other professional disciplines, (e.g. finance, medicine, architecture), accounting research does not lead practice and/or policymaking (p. 1). 2. Most academic research areas are characterized by cycles of significant innovations—i.e. new ideas and concepts that periodically revolutionize the field, such as rational expectations in economics, and options models in finance. Such innovations in accounting research are practically non-existent (p. 1). 3. Despite considerable research effort, it does not seem that we are any closer now than we were 20–30 years ago to addressing the fundamental issues in accounting such as the optimal choice of accounting standards and the optimal structure of accounting institutions (pp. 1–2);. 4. There appears to be no discernible demand for academic accountants or for accounting research by accounting firms (except in auditing), by industrial firms, or by regulators. A strong demand for academicians exists in most other professional disciplines, such as finance…(p. 2). “Thus,” the discussion document concludes, “we seem to be witnessing a ‘market failure’ phenomenon in academic accounting, particularly in research”. While the possibility of progress in science has recently been questioned by post-modern philosophers (Chua, 1996, p. 132), we derive a notion of progress from the implicit expectations of the authors of the crisis document.5 Their expectations fall into two categories. First, a progressive research program should have vitality as evidenced by innovation, progress in resolving fundamental issues, and generation of new issues for study. Second, a progressive research program should be appreciated by practice constituencies beyond the research community—it should lead practice and guide policymakers and regulators, influence education, and generate demand for academic accountants and accounting research (Demski et al., 1991). Progressive goals represent an ideal, and different research communities differ in the extent to which they appear to meet these goals. There is widespread angst, for example, in the academic economics community about whether similar goals are being met (Redman, 1991),6 while there is a common perception that academic finance, accounting’s close cousin, is “both ‘scientific’ and ‘successful’” (Chua, 1996, p. 146).7 The serious questions raised by Demski's group about the past success and future potential of the research program are still unresolved. In part this may be because accounting researchers do not have the inclination to engage in philosophical and methodological introspection. For elite accounting academics, the current social structure of the academy “works” quite well. A certain amount of introspection and self-analysis, however, is critical to progress in any scholarly field as explained by Ryan, Scapens, and Theobald (1992): Within a research community … the cultivation of sound method and a strong critical approach are necessary conditions for healthy and productive research to flourish. Furthermore, we believe that there is a place within every research community for continuous reappraisal of the methodological preconceptions upon which its work is based (p. viii). Evaluating the future potential of an academic field is a daunting task, and we make no claims of reaching final and totalizing judgments in this paper. What we seek to contribute is an application of contemporary thought in the philosophy and sociology of science, about the workings of scientific disciplines to the problem of a lack of scientific progress in accounting. The next section of the paper reviews the basic premises of the rhetoric of inquiry movement and sets out the rationale for, and indications of, “good” scientific conversation, i.e. one that permits progress. The following section traces the incorporation of economic theory into accounting research and reviews the structure of scientific conversation in economics and how it is replicated in positive accounting research. The analysis concludes that structural barriers exist that impede the possibility of economic theory development within the accounting context and keep accounting researchers from evaluating the extent to which accounting phenomena are adequately modeled using economic theory. Ironically, the structural barriers that impede progress appear to result from the attempt to make accounting research more “scientific” by adopting economic theory and methods. Subsequently, we analyze several cases of conversation in the mainstream US accounting academy to see if transformative criticism is made, heard, and acted upon. Finally, we provide an overall evaluation of the state of the mainstream US accounting research conversation, discuss the implications of our conclusions for both the USA and the international accounting research communities, and make suggestions for promoting better conversation in accounting research.