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Celebrating real-time relevant research

Author: Hilary Lindsay EdB MBA FCA, Honorary Associate at The Open University

Published: 19 May 2021

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This article shares with you a cause for celebration on several counts. I have always had concerns that, special issues of journals excepted, the somewhat slow and ponderous research process could militate against results creating the most value – results and findings could be past their sell-by date, if not their best-before date, before the world saw them. While the quality of the output would be assured by the peer-review process, the relevance of the findings might already be fading. And my concern has been exacerbated by the ongoing, speedy march of technology where the speed of change makes the production of real-time relevant research even more challenging.

That challenge has been responded to magnificently in the 2020 paper ‘Insights into accounting education in a COVID-19 world’1. Professors Alan Sangster, Greg Stoner and Barbara Flood conceived of the idea in Spring 2020, as soon as the global impact of the pandemic became apparent. By mid-May they were seeking contributions from around the globe, first compiling a list of countries and then possible contributors within each country. They requested contributions of 750-1,000 words and suggested possible topics and issues. They gave a three-week deadline of 12 June but within 72 hours had over 30 contributions. Their paper was initially submitted for publication on 29 June, revisions were input on 8 July and 1 August and the paper was published in Accounting Education on 4 August. The 132 pages include personal reflections from 66 contributors in 45 countries. The speed of publication was quite remarkable and by May 2021 it had already been downloaded well over 26,000 times.

So the paper passes the real-time test but is the research relevant? For me the answer is an even more resounding ‘Yes’. Last year all of us had to make significant changes in how we taught. What is so good is that the contributors in the paper capture the benefits and risks that emerged during the very speedy move to online-learning: the structural problems of an online-only world, recognition that tomorrow’s world will involve a blended approach (but with inevitable risks) and the impact of online-only teaching on student engagement. The paper sets out the efforts that were made to support faculty and students – considerable but not always enough – and the frustrations caused when systems could not be changed quickly enough to respond to the crisis. Through it all comes the desire of accounting academics to support their students, even when they themselves were under enormous pressure. If you are teaching accounting and finance and haven’t yet read the paper you should do so. There are years of learning and development in there, compressed into just a few months. I am reminded of the quote, ‘There are decades when nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen’. This paper captures the weeks when decades happened.

Finally, as one might expect from a paper written by three experienced journal editors, this lengthy and speedy paper also looks to the future. For me, one of its pearls is the comprehensive section on ‘Opportunities for future research’ (pp. 444-448). This is a treasure trove of potential topics that could keep those of us involved in accounting education research occupied for decades to come – not least writing papers on the permanent changes resulting from the pandemic.

Professors Sangster, Stoner and Flood, thank you so much for this real-time relevant research. I don’t know what the gestation period normally is for a paper to become ‘seminal’. Maybe in the pandemic that has also speeded up? For me this paper more than deserves that academic accolade.

*The views expressed are the author’s and not ICAEW’s.

1 Alan Sangster, Greg Stoner & Barbara Flood (2020) Insights into accounting education in a COVID-19 world, Accounting Education, 29:5, 431-562, DOI:10.1080/09639284.2020.1808487

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