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Meet the editors of... Managerial Auditing Journal

 

An interview with: Philomena Leung, Barry J. Cooper and Steven Dellaportas
Interview by: Margaret Adolphus

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Image: Philomena LeungPhilomena Leung is Head of the School of Accounting Economics and Finance, Faculty of Business & Law, at Deakin University in Australia. Her research interests lie in the areas of auditing, ethics and corporate governance and she has written numerous articles and managed many projects in those areas. Her PhD thesis is a seminal work providing empirical evidence on accounting ethics in Australia, and she is also a pioneer in accounting ethics education in Hong Kong and Australia.

Image: Barry J. CooperBarry J. Cooper is a Professor of Accounting at Deakin University, Australia. He has undertaken a number of research projects in the areas of auditing, professional ethics and accounting education. He has also published a number of articles in professional and academic journals and has co-authored several books in accounting and auditing. In addition, Professor Cooper has been very involved in the accounting profession, having taken active roles in a number of professional bodies both in Australia and internationally.

Note: Philomena Leung and Barry J. Cooper are also joint authors of Modern Auditing and Assurance Services in Australia, published by John Wiley.

Image: Steven DellaportasSteven Dellaportas is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University, Australia. Steven has developed an increasing interest in accounting ethics, which is now his major field of teaching and research. Steven's PhD investigated the moral development of accounting students, he has authored a number of articles on ethics and related issues, and is lead author of a textbook on ethics titled: Ethics, Governance and Accountability. Steven is actively involved in continuing education programmes and regularly conducts seminars on accounting ethics.


The Managerial Auditing Journal (MAJ) is devoted to the changing function of the auditor. It covers the managerial as well as the professional aspect of auditing and assurance. The journal offers an interactive resource in assessing how auditing can have a positive impact on company policy, corporate governance and the development, culture and performance of the organization. Its scope covers both financial and non-financial audit and assurance and financial and managerial reporting. As an international as well as an interdisciplinary journal, it carries both qualitative and quantitative research, and aims to inform the practitioner as much as the researcher. In terms of total downloads, MAJ was the most downloaded Emerald accounting journal in 2008, with an average of 22,000 downloads a month.

Editorial mission and focus

How did you become editors of the journal?

PL: Barry and I had both published in MAJ, and I strongly believe in its goals. So, when Gerald (the previous editor) was about to step down a few years ago, I wrote in and said I would be interested. At the same time I thought it would be good to have two people instead of just one as there were nine issues (a year), so I asked if Barry and I could jointly express our interest, which we did.

BJC: We put up a proposal, indicating how we would improve the journal, and delivered that to Simon Linacre, and then we had a telephone interview with Simon. Simon came back to us very quickly and said yes, we would like you to do the job.

SD: I joined the editorial team in 2009 when the position was offered to me by Philomena and Barry. I was inspired by the enthusiasm and foresight of the editors who have great vision for this journal. I believe the journal has great potential to be the leader in its field and I look forward to being part of its success. I also take heart in knowing that our role as editors helps (in a small way) to make our authors and readers successful in their careers and that we somehow add value to their lives.

How would you describe the journal’s mission?

PL: The journal’s mission is to promote the frontiers of auditing amongst both academics and practitioners. I feel that it offers a very viable forum for both practitioners and academics to exchange ideas and learn from one another, and I think its joint practitioner and academic appeal makes it unique.

How does MAJ differ from other auditing journals?

PL: We have a much wider audience, different in type, and it combines practice and theory as a readily accessible resource. I think that there are not too many auditing journals which can actually speak both languages or be in a common forum understood by both practitioners and academics so well.  

BJC: Compared with the other two auditing journals, which are Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory, which is US centric, and the International Journal of Auditing, where most of the authors come from Europe, with a number from Australia, MAJ has international appeal and a broad spread of authors as shown in the pie chart (see Figure 1. Geographical distribution of authors). It’s not European centric, or UK centric, and that may well have to do with the number of downloads.  

You have calls out for a couple of special issues (the future of the external audit function and case study research in accounting, auditing and business): how many do you do in a year? What other plans do you have for the journal over the next couple of years?

PL: I don’t think we should have too many special issues in a year, because we do have a core theme which we would want to stick with. We need however to acknowledge that our readers may have particular interests, but I would say that the norm would be one, maximum two, special issues a year. 

With respect to future trends, I would like to further develop the dynamic nature of the journal. For the 25th anniversary we have planned to issue papers which discuss the trend of auditing research over the last two decades, with specific reference to the published papers from MAJ. An auditing and governance colloquium has been organized to celebrate the 25th year anniversary, with Australia's top researchers in auditing sharing their ideas and insights about the development of research interests in auditing, and how the nature of auditing research has taken a broad risk and governance approach.

While special issues are important for some readers, it must be taken into consideration that we should not do too many special issues as by so doing it may risk addressing the broad interest of our stakeholders. We would imagine that a maximum of two special issues is appropriate. We also ran important special issues such as the "Common body of knowledge" (CBOK) for two consecutive years as the global CBOK project is not only complex, it has also reported a wide range of issues and has promoted the status of internal audit.

BJC: Before we took over, of nine issues I think a majority of them were special issues, and the previous journal editor had special issues all the time, which means that they were not particularly special. So I agree with Philomena that you are better off with one or two special issues a year rather than a whole series.

You welcome qualitative as well as quantitative research. There has been some interest in the former amongst accounting researchers, as is seen in the launch of Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management, also published by Emerald; what has qualitative research got to offer the area?

PL: Qualitative research is an area which hasn’t received sufficient attention in either accounting or finance. Particularly, for example, behavioural finance is a very hot topic nowadays. Following the auditing scandals of recent years people started to understand more about context, and the environment. Because auditing is such a social institution, it depends on judgement, and therefore requires some qualitative underpinning. Nowadays you can do qualitative research using quantitative methods, or you can use purely qualitative methods such as interviews or case studies.

So, you can do research which looks at contextual, qualitative matters rather than figures and numbers. One can use experimental methods or factor analysis or quantitative analysis and statistical methods to analyse contexts. Researchers have the scope to combine qualitative and quantitative methods and methodology together. Managerial auditing is such a rich area, it has both the financial and the judgement aspect.

Many of your articles are linked with particular cases, albeit in broad categories such as countries or industries. How would you counter the argument that case studies lack analytical rigour and generalizability?

PL: I think it’s our job as editors of an international journal to really try and globalize the environment so that non-conventional aspects or views or ways of doing things – which are not necessarily the Anglo Saxon ways – should be brought to the public arena. It may be that, say, the internal auditing environment in Bahrain is slightly different to that of the USA and United Kingdom, but people will never know it if we push them aside. I believe that as a purely international journal we should not have barriers, providing obviously we have the same rigour for our reviewing. It may be that we have to look at it slightly differently, as perhaps the practice and research in the topic is less developed, but we are in a globalized world, and we can’t segregate into one sector against the other.

BJC: Can I add two extra points, one is that the use of case studies is familiar to social scientists, and also accounting auditors in the past, you just have to look at the more traditional literature. In the past you could not get an article published in the journal unless it had numbers, but I agree with Philomena that the world has moved on.

The second point relates to your next question, we want to appeal to practitioners as much as to academics, if case studies are published, a number of practitioners would actually be quite interested in reading that sort of stuff, because they can relate it to their own practice.

PL:  I don’t think I would totally agree with the argument that it cannot be generalizable. For example there is much research now being done on the professionalization of accounting and auditing in different parts of the world, and you will find that the professionalization process of most countries went through similar history or development phases just as the United Kingdom or the USA. So the case studies do have lessons to be learnt, and I think they should be looked at and shouldn’t be ignored.  

You aim to appeal to practitioners as much as to academics. How do you achieve this?

PL: We have a practice forum, and whenever the appropriate articles – with a strong practitioner flavour – come in, we publish them in the practice forum rather than as a traditionally refereed, academic paper. In addition, the journal’s international flavour, as Barry was saying, will appeal to what is now a global profession.

BJP: To take an example, in Volume 22 Issue 7, there’s a practice forum, "Money laundering and the risk of diminishing returns", by a technical officer at Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, based in London.  It’s a 2,000 word paper which isn’t refereed in the normal sense, and which is really a thought piece. We believe the practice forum creates a dimension of concepts and ideas. When you have nine issues a year one has to understand the work needed to get a journal out. With the practice forum it’s a matter of finding the right people to write.

You are a peer reviewed journal; what are your reviewers looking for?

PL: In the first place we select the reviewers principally on our knowledge of their work and also on the assumption that they understand the style of the journal. So our reviewers will be looking for the intellectual rigour of the research, at the paper’s structure, at the contribution to the literature, as well as making sure that the papers are within the scope of the journal, but on top of that there is the international nature and the appeal to the practice of auditing.

BJC: One of the things that we do is try and ensure that we get a good breadth of papers from around the world. For example, we have papers from people in Saudi Arabia or Tunisia or Ethiopia where the work is really high quality, with good empirical underpinning, but the English language is pretty poor, and we will often bring them up to scratch on that front and then send them off for a proper review. So we are a bit more broad-minded in that we encourage people from the developing countries to submit papers; the message seems to have got through and we get a good supply of papers from other parts of the world.

So, you would work with the English yourself, and do quite a lot of editing?

BJC: Yes, usually on aeroplanes between Melbourne and London as I travel to the UK quite a few times a year!

Users

What do you think were the qualities that made you Emerald’s most downloaded accounting journal last year?

PL: I think we are very broad-minded, we have a very good background in auditing, and we believe that auditing can be a more rounded area of accounting.  So, we don’t just look at the audit in isolation, we look at performance, procedural issues, financial reporting and management reporting, anything within the auditing arena. I suppose that broad-mindedness helps us to locate articles in a much more rounded way. Many of the pure academic journals do have a very narrow scope in the way they define auditing and look at research methodology. We accept qualitative or thought pieces or a case study which can tell the world about the lessons learnt, and I think that broad-based approach is very helpful for both practitioners and academics. 

BJC:  I think also that the journal most certainly has a lot more rigour than it did in the past, and we are working to make sure that the articles are well referenced and are quality papers. There’s been a huge turnaround in the download rate, so I guess we must be doing something right, there’s been a big improvement in the quality of the journal.

Having more than one editor makes a great difference, given that there are nine issues a year, which is unusual for an academic journal – the most you normally have is four or five. But we had to stay with nine issues because of the subscribers. So, to improve the quality, we’ve cut back on the number of papers, which since we took over has gone down from eight to six, or five if one of them is a particularly long paper. So, we now publish fewer higher quality papers. That most certainly must be affecting the download figures.

Figure 1 below shows the geographical distribution of your authors. Do you see that pattern continuing or changing and, if so, how? How come such a large proportion of authors are from the USA, especially when sometimes US authors can be reluctant to write for non-US journals?

Image: Figure 1. Geographical distribution of authors.

Figure 1. Geographical distribution of authors

PL: I suspect that there will be more authors from China, the Far East and other parts of Asia, but I am sure that America will still be the bulk of the authors.

BJC: The thing is that America is the powerhouse of the world, as an individual country and in terms of its educational systems, so that’s a reason why a high percentage of articles in an international journal would come from the USA. I’ve been really impressed with the quality of papers we’ve got from the USA, some of them are just so good. Over the last few years there’s been a change of perception of the journal, we are getting a lot more quality submissions from the USA than in the past. For example, Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory is the top accounting journal published in the USA, and I’ve noticed that in some of the papers that we’ve had the main references have come from that journal. In other words, they are citing work done in one of the top American journals. The other factor is that in the USA, as in the rest of the world, there is much more pressure to publish than has been the case in the past, and the top American journals can only take so many papers, so I think that we are picking up a lot of very good quality papers that would be published in the USA if there was the space.

PL: Yes, I agree with that, and I think the quality of the papers coming in is higher and higher all the time. And even those from Asia, from America and from the United Kingdom are better papers, although we still have the ones from the less developed countries, which have a long way to go and which we still have to spend time helping. We do receive papers from America, the United Kingdom and Australia, where auditing research and practice are advanced, so it’s natural that they produce some of the best papers.

BJC: It would be interesting to see where the big increase in downloads has come from – if it has happened in the USA that means we are breaking into the US market, which is very difficult, but which is the major market in terms of academic publications.

General auditing issues

How do you see the position of Australia, and South East Asia generally, in auditing research?

PL: Australian researchers in auditing are getting more and more known now, and we have some top researchers who are well recognized in the UA and the United Kingdom. We are not as high up there as the USA, but I believe we are coming up very close to the UK. So auditing research in Australia is definitely, if not the second, then the third in the top frame.

How can the teaching of auditing contribute to improved auditing standards which will help avoid repetition of the accounting scandals of the past few years?

PL: Teaching the standards is not really teaching auditing. The standards by themselves do not mean anything unless they are applied effectively. Students really won’t appreciate their importance if you teach them in isolation. Auditing is very exciting and very interesting and it requires a compassionate teacher with a very good contemporary knowledge of both research and practice, to be able to talk from experience and demonstrate the intricacy and complexity of the subject.

So, auditing standards is really the outcome, the rules that we can learn afterwards. I think that auditing should be taught as a very lively, experience-based kind of subject, looking at the profession and how it is going, where it is from, what it is trying to do, and that sort of thing. That is the approach of Barry's and my book, published by John Wiley, Modern Auditing and Assurance Services in Australia, which has been very popular in Australia and is already in its second impression in the USA.  It’s this sort of approach, looking at the profession rather than the legalistic nuts and bolts, which we try and bring to the journal as well.

BJC: When we look at the accounting scandals such as Enron, Wilcon, Parmalat, and my dear old friend Arthur Anderson, they were not technical failures, they were ethical failures. So, it’s really important that when teaching we do look at ethical issues. In the early part of 2007 we actually ran a compulsory unit called "Ethical issues in accountancy" which turned out to be, according to student surveys, the most popular course in the entire degree, which is surprising, but it’s because of the way we teach it and the links with practice. We actually run an elective, a similar course here at Deakin.  We’ve also been getting some good papers, in Volume 22 Issue 6 for example, we had a paper from Australia on "The impact of codes of ethics and experience on auditor judgments" so if we do get good papers of an ethical flavour that relate to auditing, providing they are up to standard, we publish them.

Publisher's note

Philomena Leung and Barry J. Cooper were originally interviewed in August 2007. The interview was updated in August 2009.

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