BYU aims to make academic research more relevant for professionals

Four professors of accounting at Brigham Young University are looking to make academic research more relevant to the real world, and they need practicing accountants to help.

Their project, dubbed “Relevance of Accounting Research” (ROAR), is an academic research tool that allows accounting professionals to offer their input on research topics and articles most applicable to their work. The project is spearheaded by BYU School of Accountancy professors Greg Burton, Scott Summers, Jeff Wilks and David Wood. Wood, an associate professor of accountancy at the university, said the aims of the project are twofold: to "help practitioners find academic research that is relevant to what they do," and to "create an incentive for academics to produce more practice-relevant research."

"When visiting with practitioners and hearing about some of their challenges, we have realized that some of the research academics have conducted would help them with their challenges," Wood told Accounting Today. "When we mention this to the practitioners, they either haven’t thought about looking to see what researchers have said about their particular problem, or ... they have looked at academic research in the past and deemed it to be irrelevant."

"Oftentimes academics work on research projects without practice in mind," he added. "Thus, some of our research has little relevance to any audience. Our goal with this project is to help solve both of these problems. We want to create a resource that is valuable to practice to find relevant, interesting academic research that can help them in their careers. We also want to create a mechanism, really a feedback loop, to the academy on the research that is valuable to practice. With this feedback, we can begin to reward scholars and institutions that make practical differences with their research."

When professionals use ROAR, they'll be asked to login and provide some (confidential) demographic information. After choosing the area of accounting that most pertains to them, they will be presented with the abstracts of five recent articles from academic journals. After reading them, the system will ask them to answer the following questions:

  • Would you like to read the full article?
  • Would you share this article with a colleague?
  • Could you apply this research to an existing or anticipated issue?
  • Would you invest time or resources to learn more, expand or follow up on this topic?

When they're done with their session, users will receive an email with a link to articles that most suit their interests. When enough data is collected for the project, Wood says sites will be built for both practice and academic research.

Wood added that accounting practitioners of all stripes are welcome to contribute to ROAR in order to help diversify the data.

"We want to attract as diverse a set of respondents as possible as a particular research paper may appeal to different people," he said. "Ideally, we will have respondents from accounting firms, industry and also users of accounting information who are not necessarily accountants themselves. This project is kind of like Wikipedia; the more people that contribute and help, the more valuable of a resource we will create for all parties involved."

Brigham Young University
Cars and people make their way past the enterance of Brigham Young University September 1, 2009 in Provo, Utah. Bloomberg News/George Frey

To participate in the survey, head to BYU's site here.

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