The ABO Reporter

President's Letter
Tim Fogarty

A few years ago, a talented masters of accountancy student in my department set about discovering something about careers in academic accounting. The general conclusion she came away with is that a stigma exists around behavioral work and that she should be well advised to steer clear of any doctoral program that tolerates that kind of work. Even though that particular student got her nose pierced and headed for a commune in Mexico, the results of her inquiry still haunt me. What are the origins of this preference hierarchy? Should we be concerned? What should we advise students about it?

The strength of the ABO section has been the high caliber of research performed by its members. The section has been able to elevate the stature of this research by providing outlets for it such as Behavioral Research in Accounting, and through the establishment of a community of scholars, most notably realized through regular attendance at the ABO Research Conference. Section members have been very disposed towards leveraging their skills by publication in source discipline journals. All this leaves us feeling pretty good about ourselves. To confront the fact that others look down on us, or at least see us as fringe participants, comes to me as unjust and misguided. However, as academics, I think it is not appropriate to deny it. Recognition is the first step to confrontation.

Every academic discipline comprises political struggles among factions that start with different assumptions about what is interesting, what methods produce reliable evidence and what language ought to be used. The winners are always able to deny that the outcome was political and was anything other than meritocratic. Exclusion of the losers creates alternative status hierarchies, which further justifies or rationalizes the initial exclusion.

In accounting, we are pretty far down this road. Articles that rank accounting journals suggest a consistent trinity of JAR, TAR and JAE as the crème of the crop. The appetite of these journals for behavioral work ranges from scanty to nonexistent. Although this begs the question of what is behavioral work, it seems clear that an entire generation of scholars has built careers at the center of the discipline without knowing anything about the work that most of us would call behavioral. That I extend kudos to the present editor of TAR for allowing behavioral work to be at least reviewed also illustrates how far we have gone. Wearing my hat as department chair, what am I to think of a job candidate that has solid 'BRIA potential', knowing that the expectations are that they publish in the very best accounting journals?

In the final analysis, a stigma of second class citizenship is only as real as you let it be. We must rail against the bars of our cell at every opportunity. We have to document the paradigmatical bias of these leading journals and counteract the power that we implicitly grant to them. We have to understand the many ways that our own organization, the AAA, extends this false leadership. This includes formal governance, journal pricing and the socialization of new faculty and doctoral students. We should also see how these sectors have cooped other accounting organizations (e.g., AICPA, Big 5 firms) to extend and fuel their "leadership." Most importantly we have to work within our individual educational organizations to ensure a place at the table for behavioral accounting research. Accepting the hegemony of the discipline is the biggest sin you can commit. Nobody can marginalize you as well as yourself.

It is also very important to do everything you can to support the research activities of the ABO Section. We owe it to ourselves and the upcoming generation of scholars to actively participate in the annual meeting, to send paper to BRIA and to Advances in Accounting Behavioral Research, and to contribute to the success of the ABO Research Conference. It is not just something to do; it is the right thing to do.

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