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Cuadernos de Contabilidad

versión impresa ISSN 0123-1472

Cuad. Contab. vol.15 no.38 Bogotá jul./dic. 2014

http://dx.doi.org/10.11144/Javeriana.cc15-38.ppmt 

Editorial

The role of publications in the middle of the tensions between academic research and accounting practice

There is a tension, or a constant debate, in the accounting discipline —as it surely happens in other disciplines— regarding whether the link between academic research and professional practice in the corporate environment exists or not. This editorial discusses again several arguments proposed around this debate in academic literature, and associates them with the role academic publications like Cuadernos de Contabilidad should have in this context.

Essentially, the aim is to review which may be the scope of the research on accounting that is indeed published in academic journals. Also, how these publications may (or must) be relevant; not only in the university and academic context itself, but in the professional practice performed in economic organizations and other institutions as well.

This texts aims at presenting scenarios of interaction among research —especially university-level research on accounting—, and also suggests that, while these relationships should be acknowledged, it would be wrong to assume that the sole role of research is to guide practice or limit itself to it. Confining research to the world of practice equals thinking that the role of the University is only to prepare professionals for the world of work. This would detract from or reduce their reach as an institution that should constitute itself as the conscience of society, and not only as a training place of workforce for the labor market.

Next, I will present some arguments regarding the role of the research on accounting, particularly, research published in journals, and its relationship with the practical world; these are aimed at supporting the interrelation —and independence, at the same time— that should exist between these two fields. I do not expect to exhaust or follow comprehensively every argument and role that will be presented. Instead, I expect to create debates, as it has fortunately happened with other initiatives and topics that have been included in this editorial space.

First of all, following the argument of Basil P. Tucker and Alan D. Lowe (2014), a first role of the research on accounting is to provide elements to improve the professional training on accounting that people have access to. People who, in the end, exercise the accounting practice at the professional level in companies and other organizations. So, this role is mediated by a relationship between research and teaching that is more direct at the beginning, and then, between said teaching and the professional practice.

This first role of the research on accounting generates important implications for academic journals, since their typical readers should be teachers, who could look for contents in the journals to improve and keep up to date the specific contents of the subjects they are in charge of. This is not to say that teachers completely agree or share what is published, but that the published articles may be of service to the educational objectives of the subjects, either to reinforce or detract from the contents from the classroom. This would make even more qualified the education of the future accountants that will go ahead to practice their trade.

Additionally, it creates another implication: thinking of the teachers as potential authors for academic journals, up to the extent that their teaching experiences and the reflection around them must be part of the object and interest of academic journals.

In principle, the interaction between university researchers and teachers must be much greater, because they share their concern for knowledge, its spread and teaching. To this extent, academic journals may provide supplies for education and learning, as long as the teachers are their permanent readers, and, at the same time, journals must be willing to include works originated in strict reflections from the teaching profession.

This involves an additional challenge for article writers and authors: preparing their documents in a language that is accessible to undergraduate and graduate students, and also meets the conditions and requirements of the publications where expect to publish their work.

Another topic emerges in the same role that research may have regarding professional practice, mediated by the education given to the future practicing professionals. This topic deals with the fact that published research allows teachers and academics to see their own advancement in the teaching career process they usually have in Universities. This should have an impact, not only on the spread knowledge from the institutions to the outside, but especially for the education given by the teacher-researcher.

This role has been very controversial, since institutional logic leads to publishing to obtain promotions and points that improve the salary conditions of the teachers. This logic may easily lead to teachers and researchers to "publish for the sake of it", or to have the same text published without significant changes in several places, such as events and journals.

To materialize this role, it is necessary to have teachers whose ethics and autonomy go beyond the administrative rules and those of research management and intellectual production, and see in it a true thermometer of their advances, progresses, setbacks, limitations, and possibilities in their expertise areas that, in turn, improve teaching and consequently, their professional practice.

Besides, by the experience that we have had with the journal Cuadernos de Contabilidad, writing academic articles leads to mental transformations in the teacher regarding knowledge that, doubtlessly, improve research itself, as well as their teaching practice.

A second role of research deals with the critical position regarding the role of the discipline that could not be possibly perceived from the professional practice itself. For Lee D. Parker, James Guthrie and Simon Linacre (2011), "professionals should not settle on researching about a single topic, or inquiring into a topic or a trend, etc., but instead should also keep a critical attitude that allows them to theoretically reconstruct themselves to form a solid foundation with the ultimate purpose to strengthen the profession" (p.8).

This role of published research would deal with restating and improving the applications of the regulatory frameworks, and also with examining the role of information and accounting practices in the current corporate, social, environmental and political context. Moreover, this shows a necessary interdisciplinary idea of accounting to propose the transformation of realities marked by the political interests of dominant groups, and generally distinguished by inequity, exclusion of social and economic actors, whose situation is legitimized in the end by the dominant accounting practices.

Upon the critical look at accounting lies an understanding that shows that the discipline and information it produces as a practice that is not neutral to reality, but instead derives from the normally dominant interests of political and economic elites who condition the accounting regulations to the social, political and economic power relationships in certain global or local contexts.

To say it in a different way, critical research provides permanent messages for accountants to keep an attitude open to debate and permanent questioning from their different professional roles, especially when they can reflect and propose improvements regarding the corporate practices. This expands horizons to different points of view that may be shared or not, and provides different positions that strengthen the conceptual foundations of the discipline and the profession.

It is evident that even the link between the research on accounting and professional practice is still very indirect in these first roles. We have to suggest and include other roles that make this relationship more direct.

A third role is related to the creation of conceptual frameworks that guide, in some cases, the regulations to be issued, and in others, that directly support how to make concrete applications in the corporate context. For Stephen Moehrle, Kirsten Anderson, Frances Ayres, Cynthia Bolt-Lee, Roger Debreceny, Mike Dugan, Chris Hogan, Michael Maher y Elizabeth Plummer (2009), it is about research providing innovative solutions that may be applied by professionals in their professional practice.

Multiple areas of the professional activity may benefit from these research scopes; research that may even be done jointly by teachers and professionals. Some of the main fields of work in which the link between academic research and professional activity published in academic journals can be seen are the quality of the presentation of financial statements; appropriate formulation of accounting policies for the preparation of financial statements; improvements in internal control and auditing; use of technological tools for financial control; the effects of the tax regulations in companies; a more adequate assignment and estimation of costs; accounting information systems; Internet and online reports; artificial intelligence and the management of knowledge.

Research leading to sustaining regulation initiatives on accounting topics is a specially relevant topic in this role. In this case, research translates into practical guidelines that may have a high impact on the professional activity, and cause discussions and reflections around the advantages and limitations of the required regulations. In fact, this research arises from significant interactions between regulators and the academy, with the aim to change the accounting professional activity with different purposes.

A last role of the research on accounting —which does not make it any less important— is the contribution of examples constructed in the corporate world, usually coming from activities typical of consultancy, but that generate academic products which may be published in research journals. We are looking at specific applications, illustrated in a language closer to the practical world of professional activity, precisely because of its origin in consultancy.

It is appropriate to point out that this dimension of research is not exactly equal to consultancy. This is a role that emerges from the interest of the consultant to go beyond his expert work contracted by a third party, and, based on a theoretical or conceptual recognition underlying the work being done, may serve to provide specific orientation in the world of work.

Another topic related to additional conditions to strengthen the research in any of the previous roles, as highlighted by Tucker and Lowe (2014), is the institutionality necessary to bring together and serve as a bridge between academic research (generally at the university level in the Colombian context) and professional practice.

This mediation role may mean, for example, consolidating quantitative information from economic entities that is theoretically and methodologically analyzed and examined by the academy, and whose results are shown anew to the entities providing the information.

Many academic research projects are limited by the restricted access to information from companies and other organizations of interest. In this regard, institutionality may ease making research relevant for the academy and adequate for the professional world, which contributes with the provided data, its reality and its needs.

Doubtlessly, this is an important condition to strengthen accounting research that articulates the needs of the professional world. In Colombia, Professional associations, production unions, State entities... may play an important role in this sense.

The roles proposed above may contribute important elements for discussion around topics such as research policies in the universities, accounting research groups, editorial policies of journals and the vision of accounting institutionality and the professional world.

The starting point is to recognize that, even if there are different interests between both fields (academic research and professional practice), in most cases these interests may converge and work synergically. Then, it is necessary to build from the acknowledging of the difference, and for the benefit of the profession and the discipline; not trying to impose one or other role above all others, but harmonizing them and, especially, keeping them alive and current.

This is one of the great challenges of the profession, research, journals and accounting in Colombia.

Gabriel Rueda-Delgado
Editor


References

Parker, Lee D.; Guthrie, James & Linacre, Simon (2011). The relationship between academic accounting research and professional practice. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 24 (1), 5-14. Available in: http://media.accountingeducation.com/1304/Parkeraaaj24(1).pdf

Moehrle, Stephen R.; Anderson, Kirsten L.; Ayres, Frances L.; Bolt-Lee, Cynthia E.; Debreceny, Roger S.; Dugan, Mike T.; Hogan, Chris E.; Maher, Michael & Plummer, Elizabeth (2009). The impact of Academic Accounting Research on professional practice: an analysis by the AAA Research Impact Task Force. Accounting Horizons, 23 (4), 411-456.

Tucker, Basil P. & Lowe, Alan D. (2014). Practitioners are from Mars; academics are from Venus? Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 27 (3), 394-425.

Parker, Lee D.; Guthrie, James & Linacre, Simon (2011). The relationship between academic accounting research and professional practice. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 24 (1), 5-14. Disponible en: http://media.accountingeducation.com/1304/Parkeraaaj24(1).pdf        [ Links ]

Moehrle, Stephen R.; Anderson, Kirsten L.; Ayres, Frances L.; Bolt-Lee, Cynthia E.; De-breceny, Roger S.; Dugan, Mike T.; Hogan, Chris E.; Maher, Michael & Plummer, Elizabeth (2009). The impact of Academic Accounting Research on professional practice: an analysis by the AAA Research Impact Task Force. Accounting Horizons, 23 (4), 411-456.         [ Links ]

Tucker, Basil P. & Lowe, Alan D. (2014). Practitioners are from Mars; academics are from Venus? Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 27 (3), 394-425.         [ Links ]