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Impact of research assessment exercises on research approaches and foci of accounting disciplines in Australia

O'Connell, BT, De Lange, P, Stoner, G and Sangster, A 2020 , 'Impact of research assessment exercises on research approaches and foci of accounting disciplines in Australia' , Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal , doi: 10.1108/AAAJ-12-2019-4293.

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Purpose: The overall aim of this paper was to examine the impact of the Australian research assessmentexercise on the research approaches (positivist/non-positivist) favoured by accounting disciplines in Australia.Our key research question examined how the outputs and foci of research in elite accounting disciplineschanged over a 16-year period. Our analysis was informed by Bourdieu’s notions of academic elitism andsymbolic violence.Design/methodology/approach: We analysed all papers published in 20 major accounting journals acrossa 16-year period by Australian accounting disciplines that were highly rated in the research assessmentexercise. We also compared our results from this group against two case study accounting disciplines that werenot rated as “world class”.Findings: Our key finding is that the introduction of a research assessment exercise in Australia has resultedin research outputs of elite accounting disciplines over this period being increasingly focused on positivistrather than non-positivist research. Our findings evidence a narrowing of accounting disciplines’ researchagendas and foci across the period.Research limitations/implications: Our findings highlight a considerable narrowing of the researchagenda and paradigms in accounting disciplines that is not in the public interest. Our findings also haveimplications for the literature on academic elitism. The narrowing of the research agenda and greater foci onpositivist research exhibited in our findings demonstrates the role of dominant elites in controlling the researchagenda through a research assessment exercise.Practical implications: A practical implication is that proper research, regardless of the approach used,must be appropriately recognised and accepted by Accounting Disciplines, not ostracised or discouraged.Research implications are the breadth of accounting research should be celebrated and concentrationeschewed. Australian accounting discipline leaders should not fall for the illusion that the only good research isthat which is published in a small number of North American positivist journals.Originality/value: Our findings provide insights into Bourdieu’s work through demonstrating howdominant players have successfully exploited an external regulatory mechanism, a research assessmentexercise, to strengthen their position within a field and exert control over the research agendas of accountingdisciplines. Previous work by Bourdieu has not directly examined how actors utilise these outside forces asinstruments for shaping their own field.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:O'Connell, BT and De Lange, P and Stoner, G and Sangster, A
Keywords: journal ratings, research assessment exercises, academic elitism, Bourdieu
Journal or Publication Title: Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN: 0951-3574
DOI / ID Number: 10.1108/AAAJ-12-2019-4293
Copyright Information:

© Emerald Publishing Limited

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