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Meet the editors of... Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

An interview with: Lee Parker and James Guthrie

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Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal (AAAJ) is an academic accounting and management research journal that publishes papers on the interaction between accounting and auditing on the one hand and their institutional, socio-economic, political and historical environment on the other.

Internationally regarded as one of the leading journals in its field, it enjoys two of Emerald's most hard working and effective editors, with high profile reputations and far-reaching vision. This is reflected by their Outstanding Service Award in the Literati Network 2008 Awards for Excellence, in recognition of editing the AAAJ over its first 20 years. They also received the Leading Editors Award from Emerald in 2002, given for professionalism, commitment and contribution to the success of the journal.

Lee and James have always been dedicated to a completely professional approach to editing and have been recognized in the past through the Editor of the Year prize from Emerald in 1993, and the award of Leading Editor in 1994. In the wider market, the journal is subscribed to by 95 per cent of the Financial Times 100 top business schools, and in 2008 recorded just under 200,000 customer downloads to its published articles.

Lee and James are the journal's founding editors and have held this post for over 20 years. They are both Senior Editorial Advisers in Emerald and they both continue to be active researchers with extensive personal publishing records.

Image: Lee ParkerProfessor Parker has published over 150 refereed research and professional journal articles and authored/edited multiple books and monographs on management and accounting. He is a regular presenter at international conferences and seminars and serves on more than 25 other journal editorial boards internationally. Lee is also a founding Fellow of the Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research and Honorary Professor at Scotland's University of St Andrews.

He has served as international adviser to the British universities' Research Assessment Exercise accountancy panels, president of the Academy of Accounting Historians (USA), and the American Accounting Association Public Interest section. He has also been Vice-President International of the American Accounting Association, President of CPA Australia SA Division and Deputy President of the Australian Institute of Management (SA Division). His research interests include strategic management, public/non-profit sector management and accounting, corporate governance, social and environmental accountability, and accounting and management history.

Image: James GuthrieProfessor Guthrie has authored nearly 150 articles in both international and national refereed and professional journals, and over 40 chapters in books. James has presented his ideas and research findings to over 300 national and international gatherings. He is also co-editor of eight public sector management and accounting books and editorial board member of 18 other research journals in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

He is a founding Fellow of the Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research in Scotland. His research and teaching interests include public sector management, intellectual capital and extended performance reporting, and social and environmental accounting.

In the following interview, the editors reflect on the success factors of their journal, their future plans, and on what it takes to be published in a quality journal.

Editorial philosophy and general journal direction

AAAJ is widely regarded as one of the leading journals in the field. You were given a Leading Editor's award in 2002, and your pre-eminence in the market is indicated by the fact that you are subscribed to by 95 per cent of the Financial Times top 100 graduate business schools.  Would you care to reflect on some of the key factors that contribute to your success?

Yes, there are a number. First we have developed a very clear and continuing philosophy for AAAJ that has marked it out as a unique research journal in the accounting and management fields – an interdisciplinary journal committed to the study of accounting, auditing and accountability in their social, institutional, political and economic contexts. We have deliberately targeted research subject areas, perspectives and methodologies that the literature in the field has in the past neglected or accorded inadequate attention.

In addition, we have been prepared to innovate, to take risks, to experiment with new "breaking" subject areas, experimental formats and special theme issues. We have also assiduously developed a very cohesive and supportive network of scholars who serve as editorial board members, ad hoc reviewers and authors. Through this network of scholars we cultivate a continuing sense of discovery and excitement and we seek out and encourage new authors. However, underpinning all this, the bottom line for AAAJ's success in the past and future is a total and unwavering commitment to publishing the highest quality research that makes significant original contributions to knowledge in our relevant disciplinary field.

What plans do you have for the journal over the coming year, and how do you see it developing over the next 12-month period?  Do you have particular themes you intend to pursue?

We have a number of special issues planned for 2009-2011 (see the list below). In addition, AAAJ convenes the pre-eminent international interdisciplinary accounting research conference (The Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting conference – APIRA) once every three years, having previously convened these in Sydney (1985), Osaka (1988), Adelaide (2001), Singapore (2004) and Auckland (2007). These conferences also conduct a highly successful Emerging Scholars' Colloquium that generally involves up to 50 doctoral and master's research students and approximately 15 professorial faculties from around the world. The 2010 APIRA conference returns to Sydney.

How do your authors contribute to your success, and how do you attract the right authors to maintain your market pre-eminence?

Our success is built on authors who conduct high quality research that must pass the scrutiny of two and sometimes three double blind referees and between one and three rounds of revision. To secure publication they must demonstrate significant original new contributions to knowledge, highest standards of literacy and communication, and a clear ability to "push the boundaries".

Attracting the "right" authors is a matter of:

  1. Exhibiting the subject areas, methodologies and quality standards that attract the type and level of authors we seek.
  2. Maintaining an active editorial presence at major international conferences of relevance to AAAJ.
  3. Offering the APIRA conferences as a major venue for connecting authors with the journal and its editors, associate editors and editorial board.

In your 20th anniversary issue, you state that "Risking the new and the different, including the marginalized, addressing the intractable and challenging the status quo are what AAAJ has always been about". That's a pretty clear summary of editorial philosophy, but I'd like to get you to elaborate on one aspect: How might this translate into the types of articles which you would like to publish?

We look for researchers who, as we said above, "push the boundaries", and, for example, examine subjects from disciplinary perspectives not previously attempted, address issues receiving inadequate attention in the research literature, and apply research methods not much applied to areas of concern. We also press authors to address accounting, auditing and accountability issues not in isolation, but to examine and analyse them in relation to their interaction with the environments in which they are situated, and to consider the further business, professional and public policy implications involved.

Is your readership predominantly academic, or do you also have a professional and policymaking readership, and is your academic readership mainly confined to management and accountancy?

As a now well recognized top international research journal, our readership is predominantly researchers, lecturers and postgraduate students. Largely they would be located in the accounting and management fields.

Readers will be interested to learn that you publish poetry in your journal.  What sort of poetry might your journal publish?  More generally, can you say a bit more about what you are looking for in your "literature and insights" section?

Through our literary editor, Steve Evans, an English literature academic, we seek and attract poetry and short prose written by both accounting and management scholars and literary writers that address a wide range of issues relating to the world of work. AAAJ has facilitated this form of dialogue and critique in both its journal pages and in its literary stream of presentations at its APIRA conference. In doing so, we aim to break with conventional ways of addressing and examining issues in the world of business, government and voluntary non-profit sectors. It liberates writers to raise, discuss and critique issues with a level of freedom not ordinarily available in the traditional research article format. In this way, new issues and their dimensions are discovered or rediscovered. We believe this offers potentially new insights, new research agendas and also innovative teaching materials in accounting and management.

General publishing issues 

In addition to your journal commitments you have also published extensively.  Do you have any tips about finding the time to write and publish, given the time famine that seems to hit all academics?

In our experience, the busiest academics are invariably the most productive and prolific writers. Neither of us would claim to keep all the "rules" of effective time management, but it is certainly important to be disciplined and time efficient in the way in which one tackles the other areas of academic work (administration, teaching and community/business/profession service) in order to preserve time for research and writing. It also pays to deliberately schedule time-out (be it daily, weekly or monthly) for research, and to plan and project manage one's research as one would do in any other area of professional life. In the end it comes down to personal discipline, determination and a preparedness to put in many hours of personal time "out of office hours".

Abby Day, in How to Get Research Published in Journals, mentions three success criteria in publishing: targeting the right journal; focusing on the requisite quality variables (unique to each journal); and answering the question, "So what?". Would you care to comment on this?

We absolutely agree! Authors should carefully evaluate the subject areas, philosophies and methodologies exhibited by journals in order to target those with the best fit to their work. They should also look for indicators of quality required including identity of the editorial board, number of revisions indicated for published articles over recent years, extent of empirical evidence, literature referencing and level of theorizing in articles published. The "So what?" question is absolutely crucial and often invoked by AAAJ reviewers. It is the ultimate test of a paper's significance. Who should care? Why should they care? What difference does it make? These are what are implied in the "So what?" question.

Quality variables

How can the double-blind review process be managed to ensure quality whilst at the same time avoiding the negative effects which often cause anxiety to authors, such as unconstructive, negative or just vague comments?

It is up to the editor to assess the quality of the reviewer's report. Where we find that a reviewer may have been perfunctory, or unconstructive, two cross-checks are invoked:

  1. Compare the report against the second reviewer's report.
  2. Consider sending the paper and the first two reports to a third reviewer for an "arbitrating" third opinion.

It must be said that we also send a paper to a third referee if the first two reviewer reports and their recommendations are in significant disagreement.

What advice can you give to authors on dealing with reviewers' comments and on revising their papers at this stage?

Read the comments and put them away for a time. Then re-read the comments. A second and even third reading will enable the author to better interpret and appreciate the referee comments. First address the easiest, more minor points. Subsequently address the more substantive points. Avoid minor window-dressing style revisions where major revisions are required. This will only alienate the reviewers. Where the reviewers' suggestions cannot be met, explain clearly why this is so, and if possible insert related reservations in the limitations section of the paper. Always provide a detailed response set of pages for each reviewer, showing him/her exactly how you have addressed each point they made in their original report.

Are there any particular quality issues that crop up again and again with submitted articles, such as lack of structure, poor writing style, inadequate referencing?

Generally, AAAJ now has such a high profile and well established international reputation, that the vast majority of authors submitting papers conform with its style guide, and meet the basic hurdle indicators for being considered of sufficient quality to be admitted to the refereeing process.

Do you have authors who have problems with English, and how do you overcome this?

We experience this only very occasionally, and unfortunately our resource constraints mean that we always require the author to seek local English editing assistance in their home location.

The role of an editor

How much editing do you do on submitted manuscripts?

As a refereed research journal, AAAJ requires the author(s) to make any and all adjustments. The editors may recommend changes, along with referees, but the editors do not edit submitted or revised papers.

What do you most like about being an editor?

Being able to facilitate the publication of leading edge research. Being in a position to foster new and emerging authors. Being in a position to act as referee and mentor for many authors and editorial board members as they progress in their academic careers. And most of all, being able to play a major part in shaping the content, perspectives and directions of research and literature in the accounting and management disciplines.

What do you least like about being an editor?

The daily volume of e-mail traffic with which I must deal.

Are there any problems with persistently occur from author submissions?

None that would merit highlighting here.

Publishing new research

We understand that you are interested in publishing new interdisciplinary research. Can this benefit students doing original interdisciplinary research for their PhDs?

Yes. In our interdisciplinary research field, and the subject areas and methodologies we particularly encourage, AAAJ is a sine qua non for doctoral and master's degree researchers. The journal contains major research references that are essential for inclusion in many doctoral thesis bibliographies! Such published AAAJ papers invariably provide the student with the very latest leading edge research findings, debates, critiques, theoretical perspectives and developments in the field.

AAAJ is proud of its role in promoting the very best of interdisciplinary accounting research, and every year recognizes the achievements of its authors by announcing the winner of a best paper award and three commendations. The award is given following a survey of all Editorial Advisory Board members, and is named in memory of the esteemed researcher, Mary Parker Follett, a pioneering woman in the field of management and accountability literature who was international and interdisciplinary in her approach.

The results for the 2008 volume are:

Outstanding paper
Georgios Georgakopoulos and Ian Thomson
"Social reporting, engagements, controversies and conflict in an arena context"
Volume 22, Number 8, 2008, pp 1116-1143

High commendations
Naoko Komori
"Towards the feminisation of accounting practice: Lessons from the experiences of Japanese women in the accounting profession"
Volume 22, Number 4, 2008, pp 507-538

Jan Bebbington, Carlos Larrinaga and Jose M. Moneva
"Corporate social reporting and reputation risk management"
Volume 22, Number 3, 2008, pp 337-361

Outstanding reviewers
Professor Tim Fogarty
Professor Trevor Hopper

Dissemination 

Getting something published is only the first step in dissemination. What advice would you give to authors on continuing to ensure that their work becomes known to their peers?

Keep publishing. Publish in a wide range of journals. Seek and take up opportunities to write for and publish in research monographs, books, professional and business journals. Regularly present your work at conferences, other university seminars, and professional conferences. We would refer authors to our discussion of building a publishing career in:

Guthrie, J., Parker, L. and Gray, R. (2004), "From thesis to publication", in Burton, S. and Steane, P. (Eds), Surviving your Thesis, Routledge, London, pp. 232-47.

You describe yourselves as "challenging conventional wisdom, exploring alternatives and offering new perspectives".  Has your journal ever found itself under the media spotlight?

No. Largely we would expect our authors to translate the high level research published in AAAJ into shorter form, layperson accessible formats that they present to business and professional journals and conferences. However, we recognize that researchers often fail to make this "technology transfer" step. It is a step however which lies outside the scope of AAAJ and its pages.

AAAJ special issues: 2009-2011

2009

Accounting and Subalternity
Guest Editor: Dr Cameron Graham, Schulich School of Business, Canada

This special issue examines accounting practices on the margins of Western society, both in historical and current contexts, to explore the relationship between accounting and power. Building on existing research, this special issue helps to consolidate research on accounting in the indigenous and subaltern communities, covering areas such as the resistance from subordinate communities in Sri Lanka and Chile to governance accounting structures, the historic roots of subalternity within imperial Britain, and management accounting in less developed countries.

Accounting and the Visual
Guest Editors: Dr Samantha Warren, Surrey University, UK, Dr Jane Davison, University of London, UK, and Professor Lee Parker, University of South Australia, Australia.

This special issue brings together a variety of perspectives on accounting, accountability and the accounting profession as visual activities. In an eclectic mix of papers, this issue will present a range of different conceptualizations of accounting and the visual in order to demonstrate the rich possibilities offered by a visual frame of reference in the hope that as many readers as possible might be inspired to think more visually about their own practices.

2009/2010

Accounting for Politics: Power/Strategy/Accountability
Guest Editors: Professor Stewart Clegg, University of Technology Sydney, Australia, Dr Chris Carter, University of St Andrews, Scotland, and Dr Martin Kornberger, University of St Andrews, Scotland

2010

Accounting for Cities in the 21st Century
Guest Editors: Professor Irvine Lapsley, University of Edinburgh, UK, and Professor Fabrizio Panozzo, Ca’ Foscari University, Italy.

Sustainability Accounting, Auditing and Accountability – A Question for Management
Guest Editors: Professor Roger Burritt, University of South Australia, Australia, and Professor Dr Stefan Schaltegger, University of Lueneburg, Germany.

2011

Cross Cultural Impacts: The Influence of French Philosophers and Social Theorists on Accounting Research
Guest Editors: Professor C. Richard Baker, Adelphi University, USA, and Eve Chiapello, HEC School of Management, France.

Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas Accounting, Auditing & Accountability
Guest Editors: Professor Amanda Ball and Professor Markus J. Milne, University of Canterbury, New Zealand and Dr Suzana Grubnic, Nottingham University Business School, UK.

Papers from the Sixth Asian Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference, Sydney, Australia
Guest Editor: Garry Carnegie, University of Ballarat, Australia.

For more information on any of the above special issues, please e-mail AAAJ editor James Guthrie j.guthrie@econ.usyd.edu.au, or Simon Linacre slinacre@emeraldinsight.com.

Publisher's note:

Professors Parker and Guthrie were originally interviewed in March/April 2004. The interview was revised in July 2009.

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