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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 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 the knowledge in question has been disseminated over the past half century. Over 170 accounting periodicals, mostly refereed journals, are searched for articles based on empirical materials sourced from New Zealand. The approach is relevant to the question of whether the trends revealed are in the interests of New Zealand audiences, including students, accountants, policymakers, Aotearoa New Zealand’s indigenous people and its diverse recent-settler populations, and Pacific New Zealand Society.

Findings – The findings relate to the rankings of the refereed journals articles have been published in, the geographical locations of their editors, and the broad 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 Chartered Accountants Journal (CAJ), Accounting Review and Abacus. 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 Australian origin comprising periodicals that are decidedly Anglospheric and/or Atlantocentric. The CAJ has been deserted in favour of refereed journals, which are 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) or a place where concerns can stimulate counter-movements to repression. This contrasts with areas about which the outside world is oblivious (e.g., New Zealand’s multicultural array of people and organisations, including the Māori people, as seen from a tangata whenua agency viewpoint) 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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