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Accounting Research: interdisciplinarity, engagement, impact

Présentation du Pr. Charles Cho – 26 novembre 2021.

The topic is about accounting research but could apply to any academic disciplinary research. From the Interdisciplinary Accounting Research (IAR), interdisciplinarity is a mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, theories, etc. from two or more disciplines of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding to solve problems, whose solutions are beyond the scope of a “single discipline”.
Highlighting some blind spots of interdisciplinarity like the shaping of business school coming from fields such as psychology, political sciences, sociology or economics, Prof. Cho raised some obstacles towards interdisciplinarity: difficulty to develop a network, silos that impede the finding of co-authors or meeting incongruent targets (top journals requirements, productivity penalty, issue of ranking).
Interdisciplinarity is also facing some hazards:

  • superficiality, when a researcher is trained in accounting, works in accounting, publishes in accounting but imports theories from other discipline,
  • modularization, when one borrows from other fields without making any effort to enrich the scholarly communities. Imported research areas become silos.
  • dilution, with conceptual fuzziness.

The idea might be to move from an identity-based IAR to a practico-based IAR. For example, with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), there is a need for research that is problem-driven to generate impact. Otherwise, one can faces the “imposter syndrome” (Bothello et Roulet 2019) with the risk of a cognitive dissonance regarding what one teaches and what one achieves in society, being too self-referential.
This raises the question of engagement and impact: the moral dilemma of business research. Prof. cho defines impact as research that influences how organizations or individuals think. He specifies that impact has different dimensions: scholarly, practical, societal policy or educational.
Sometimes, accounting scholars have little or no interest in engaging outside academia. “I don’t want to engage with partitioners because I am a serious academic”, this real quotation illustrates the problematic situation. This shows a lack of interest to answer the question: how/where is our research disseminated and made accessible to a wider audience? This lack of desire to become engaged is occasionally twinned with the fear of leaving the comfortable “ivory tower” we enjoyed as scholars.
Recognizing that we specifically look for scholarly impact, prof. Cho highlights that this type of impact is not necessarily achieved with publications in top journals.

Prof. Cho encourages accounting scholars to ask, “What did this person do for society?” rather than “How many citations did this work generate?”. He called for more engaged scholars in impacting society and businesses. This implies: promoting research in a different way, disseminating outside of academic journals, considering teaching as an implicit way of being impactful and accepting to be a “public scholar”.


Charles Cho,
Professor of Accounting, Erivan K. Haub Chair in Business & Sustainability

Schulich School of Business

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