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Growth and dispersion of accounting research about New Zealand before and during a National Research Assessment Exercise: Five decades of academic journals bibliometrics

Dixon, Keith (2013): Growth and dispersion of accounting research about New Zealand before and during a National Research Assessment Exercise: Five decades of academic journals bibliometrics.

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Abstract

Purpose – University academics are important to the discovery and dissemination of knowledge about accounting practice and accounting learning. This article explores the consequences for the Pacific society of New Zealand of how these discovery and dissemination activities have come to be assessed for performance management, formulaic public funding and offshore accreditation. Design/methodology/approach – A longitudinal, bibliometric approach is taken to how knowledge about accounting practice and accounting learning in New Zealand has been disseminated over the past half century. The approach lends itself to the question of whether the trends revealed in the bibliometrics are suited to New Zealand audiences, including students, accountants, policymakers, Aotearoa New Zealand’s indigenous people and its diverse recent-settler populations, and Pacific New Zealand Society. One hundred and sixty accounting journals and several professional magazines are searched for articles based on empirical materials drawn from New Zealand. Findings – The findings relate to the geographical locations of the editors and the rankings of the periodicals that articles have been published in, and the topics the articles cover. The findings are interpreted in the broad contexts of academic activities, university development, and tertiary education policy and funding. Of the three activities associated with accounting in New Zealand universities, research has been the last to develop, starting with occasional articles penned by a small band of professors and published in the Chartered Accountants Journal (CAJ) and The Accounting Review. Now, research is often accorded the highest priority, as reflected in formal individual academic performance measurement systems, and related institutional incentives and penalties (exemplified by the Performance Based Research Fund of 2012). Measurement is conducted at the individual and institutional level, using criteria linked to lists of periodicals that are decidedly Atlantocentric. The CAJ has been deserted in favour of academic journals, virtually all based outside New Zealand. Academics have modified the way they report to suit the foreign editors and readerships. Publication patterns continue to change. Strong incentives and coercements seem to exist for New Zealand-based academics to behave selfishly for short-term survival. These persuaders seem to be wielded by a quasi-indigenous élite seeking to mimic their supposed superior counterparts elsewhere; and to dominate their subjects, and so exercise power and maintain their status. This is regardless of what might be better from a local, societal point of view. To publish about New Zealand, there is some advantage in studying areas in which New Zealand is seen as a “world leader” (e.g., Structural Adjustment, New Public Management, environmental accounting). This contrasts with areas about which the outside world is oblivious (e.g., New Zealand’s multicultural array of people and organisations, including the Maori people) or areas in which New Zealand lacks differences of “world” interest (e.g., financial collapses and director impropriety, what can be learnt from stock exchange data). Research limitations/implications – The research is confined to basic bibliometrics (a publication analysis, rather than citation or co-citation analyses), anecdotes and comparison with secondary sources. Originality/value – This study is concerned with whether knowledge about accounting practice and accounting learning in New Zealand is being disseminated in a way that suits those likely to be most interested and affected. It is distinct from most studies of this ilk, which attempt to rank journals or are about researcher productivity and author placement.

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