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November 13, 2021 12:07 PM

A Problem in the Call for Applications of the 2022 Bergen EAA Doctoral Colloquium: and a solution

Posted by Willem Buijink
In April 2021 the composition of the Faculty for the 2021 EAA Virtual Doctoral Colloquium drew criticism, see the ARC Blog, May 8, 2021 and the EAA Newsletter, June 8, 2021, from parts of the EAA membership. The critics maintained that the composition of the 2021 DC Faculty members '[signalled] ... a lack of openness for qualitative, organizational and sociological accounting research', compared to the composition of the DC Faculty in prior years. This critique can be reformulated, I think, as follows. The composition of the 2021 DC Faculty signalled far too much emphasis on quantitative and economics based accounting research. Comparing the DC Faculty compositions in 2019 and 2021, there indeed was a composition shift in the direction of Faculty doing quantitative economics based accounting research. 
Although the 2021 Co-Chairs explained that for the 2021 DC, '... the faculty [was selected] based solely on the selected students’ work, in order to facilitate fruitful and constructive discussions... ', nevertheless the EAA Management Committee apologized for the 2021 DC composition shift. It also '... announced [in May 2021] upcoming changes to reinforce the Doctoral Colloquium’s ongoing commitment to diversity, openness to any research approach, ... '.
We can now observe these changes in the Call for Applications for the 2022 Bergen EAA DC. 
One change seen is the addition of a third DC Chair. This appears intended, given the discussion described above and the 3 Co-Chairs' body of work, to make the selection of DC participants even more informed.
The problem lies in another change in the Call. Applicants are now asked the following two questions. I have numbered the questions here:
1) : 'Which field description characterises your doctoral research best? [single choice]
● Corporate reporting and analysis, governance and auditing, and taxation
● Management accounting and information systems
● Social, critical, organisational, and historical perspectives on accounting';
2) : 'Which methods do you use in your doctoral research? [multiple choice]
● Analytical
● Empirical Archival
● Experimental (Lab or Field)
● Interviews and other qualitative methods
● Questionnaire/Survey'.
The problem is the way the first choice is structured. That structure is illogical.
Surely, applicants using 'Social, critical, organisational, and historical perspectives on accounting', will study phenomena of 'Corporate reporting, etc.' and of 'Management Accounting and Information Systems', just as the Economics based applicants will. The structure of question 1) suggests otherwise.
Also, Economics based accounting research is not mentioned, which is odd of course given the initial criticism. Economics based accounting research deserves recognition just as much as 'Social, critical, organisational, and historical' approaches to accounting research do.
A logical, and at the same time more simple, choice set-up for question 1, with 'economics based' added, is this: 
- Which field description characterises your doctoral research best? [sequential choice:
● (from 6 areas (more than one choice is possible)) corporate reporting and analysis, governance, auditing, taxation, management accounting, information systems;
● (from 5 areas (more than one choice is possible)) using a social, critical, organisational, economics based, historical perspective.
This, in combination with the methods question 2), would describe the applicants' research approach clearly, which will help in the selection process. 
But, even more important, it will enable the DC Chairs to group successful applicants into subject areas, such that spirited discussions about accounting phenomena become possible, based on the research perspectives and methods that these applicants use. It is precisely this sort of discussion that is necessary. Separate streams for economics and non-economics based accounting applicants, as suggested in question 1) as it is the Call, is certainly undesirable.
Also: question 1) uses 'Social, critical, organisational, and historical perspectives on accounting' as labels. I suggest using 'Anthropology, Economics, Sociology, Political Science, Psychology and Philosophy (e.g. Critical Theory) based perspectives on accounting'. Hence, instead of 'Social' and 'Organisational', simply list all main Social Sciences areas and add Philosophy (e.g. Critical Theory). I have not done so in my reformulation above, but it would be a further improvement.
The application deadline for the 2022 DC is at the end of this November. It seems to me that the improvements I suggest here are important. There is still time to change the current Call for Applicants.
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About Willem Buijink

Senior Research Fellow, Open Universiteit (OU), Heerlen, The Netherlands

From 2015-2021 I was Professor of Accounting, OU, Department of Accounting and Finance. Before that I was Professor of Business Economics, Universiteit Tilburg, 2001-2016; Professor of Business Economics, Universiteit Maastricht, 1992-2001;...

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  • Martien Lubberink's picture
    Martien Lubberink
    November 22, 2021 08:09 PM
    A problem with ...
    Great suggestions, Willem,. Thanks. It would be nice to present some empirical evidence on the impact of various accounting research streams. Many of us think our own field deserves more attention, sometimes at the expense of other fields. But what does the world outside think of this? Following Ball and Brown 1968, I'd suggest letting the data speak.
  • Willem Buijink's picture
    Willem Buijink
    November 29, 2021 11:28 AM
    Martien Lubbering Comment
    Dag Martien. Thank you for your comment and 'goed van je te horen'. My point in the blog post was that question 1 in the Call for DC applications was not logical. Surely non-economics based accounting PhD students would study financial accounting (broadly) or management accounting (broadly) phenomena. In addition, my fear is that question 1, as it is now, would, or could, result in a DC during which these economics-based and non-economics based PhD students would be in separate streams. That would not be productive. Indeed, as you also suggest, competition between all theoretical and empirical approaches to the understanding or prediction of accounting phenomena is the productive way forward. Hence the need for discussion among all DC participants. Actually what you suggest could be interesting, in a more direct way, for accounting journals. Choose an interesting accounting phenomenon and invite, referee and pre-register paper proposals from all theoretical/empirical approaches and publish these papers once ready, i.e. the outcomes, in a special 'competitive' and 'comparative' issue.