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Making a difference

Read through the three topics below. Each begins with a summary of key points and then sets out some issues for you to consider as you read through the detailed quotes. The comments from other accountants working in academia below will give you a range of insights which concern making a difference.

25. Finding out something new

The quotes which follow mention that:

  • There is inherent excitement in finding out something new
  • Research is irrelevant if it is not used afterwards
  • Doctoral research findings should aim to make an impact

Issues for you to consider as you read the quotes below:

  • How excited are you about potentially finding out something new?
  • Can you see ways that a research topic you are interested in could make a difference?
  • Who could you talk to now to give you the best chance of your research having impact?

So I’m finding out things from my research at the moment. I’ve shown how what I’ve studied around my area has changed what I’ve done on the module and it’s how you build on what’s gone on before. There’s something at some point in there that I could do, but I’m not sure what yet. But that process I find very exciting.

Barbara, Lecturer - 80% teaching and 20% scholarship contract

Finding our something new would be so exciting. Exciting is a really good word to use here. The experience and excitement of doing something like that and discovering something like that and for it to be implemented would be amazing.

Dina, Lecturer - 80% teaching and 20% administration contract

So what does it help doing research, if you don't use it afterwards? I mean obviously you do research for the purpose of enriching the knowledge base, or broadening the knowledge base. If you don't publish, then you're not doing that. It's just knowledge that's in your head which you're never going to share with someone. It doesn't make sense to me.

Frank, Senior Lecturer - 80% teaching and 20% research

For my PhD, once I am further down the road, I would hope to share it with the organisation that I am researching. I would hope that they would be receptive to perhaps any small gaps or issues identified from it and then that there would be an impact. A real impact.

Lucy, Teaching Fellow - 80% teaching and 20% research

26. Contributing to society

The quotes which follow mention that:

  • The potential to contribute to society can be a key motivator of researchers
  • The findings from research can help influence policy
  • It’s good to seek advice on how best to seek to influence policy
  • You can use your academic skills to make a difference in wider contexts
  •  Feedback from practitioners can inform the shape of research

Issues for you to consider as you read the quotes below:

  • What areas of policy might any research you do influence?
  • In what wider contexts could you use your academic skills to make a difference to society?
  • How can you get input and feedback now from those your research might impact?

My main motivation to go into the academic world in the first place was to try somehow to make some sort of contribution to society. And I thought by developing the accountancy skills of people at undergraduate level I was making some contribution to society in some way. I have the same motive for my research. I myself have always been motivated by doing research that has a more direct practical implication. I’ve never just taken something on because of a fancy title or something, I’ve taken it on because I think there’s a potential to make a difference by doing it.

Andrew, Professor involved in teaching and research

The positives from doing research are limitless. If you do proper research on what's available, on whatever the future, on whatever tickles your mind, the contribution you can make to society as a whole, to your own self-development for the benefit, not only of your students, but for your profession where you are involved as a whole, I think that is just enormous.

Frank, Senior Lecturer - 80% teaching and 20% research

 I’ve a wish to try and help people learn from what’s happened before. That sounds a bit pretentious. I’m not saying I’ve got amazing things or wisdom to share, but we can learn from what we’ve done and go forward with a bit more information rather than just walking in blind into something because it seems like a good policy decision. In terms of sharing the results of my PhD afterwards, I’m really aware this sounds very arrogant, but I’d like to be able to perhaps influence policy a little bit, if I can, in a small way. Beyond that, I don’t know. It would be out there in the literature then and I’d be very happy to work with other Researchers.

Isabel, Senior Lecturer - 100% teaching

I think learning what’s a good channel and what’s not such a brim-full channel to disseminate your research is a really difficult thing. Even the more experienced researchers sometimes don’t always know the best channels. I’ve learnt a lot from a press officer at the university who is an experienced journalist. And he’s been really good to talk to in terms of turning your dour somewhat esoteric research into something that’s a bit more digestible by a general audience, something that will gain policy attention for example.

Julia - Senior Teaching Fellow doing some scholarship

To me, seeing how people learn and how accounting is applied in different contexts, seeing how my students learn when at University, and my research, they do tie up. While it’s not traditional research. I’m not working out how to make management control systems more effective and I mightn’t have impact in terms of the practice community in terms of the doing, the collection of things that I do, means I have a certain body of knowledge. Or, I suppose, just experience that’s useful in these other roles that I have. I just have an intrinsic interest in this notion of how we learn. How do you become an Accountant? What’s the experience like? In that regard, I want to make a difference in that way. I still have involvement in the practice arena and with the professions. I do things with my professional body. I’m on committees, and so on. And I’m on some external committees.

Grace - Professor involved in teaching, administration and research

I was invited to present at a conference for practitioners. With my previous experience I am comfortable with the type of audience I was speaking to. I have done CPD-type presentations to that type of audience. I didn’t feel that I was speaking to them in an academic way. However, in hindsight, the presentation should have been tailored more to them and if I want to start sharing this research, when I complete it, it has to be something that fits my audience. I think that research has to have a relevance in business, or a relevance to the students who are going to take that knowledge out to business. So, that’s where I want to take my research. It’s pointless just doing it just to end up with a PhD that half a dozen people will read, if you are lucky. But I want to do something with it. Potentially, write more articles for professional magazines and what have you. So, keep it practice-focused rather than in a more traditional academic sense.

Kath, Senior Lecturer involved in teaching, administration and research

27. Contributing to the accountancy profession

The quotes which follow mention that:

  • It is really important to have effective links between academia and the accountancy profession
  • The accountancy profession could be a fertile area for research
  • It is good to be able to provide an academic contribution to professional body committees and consultations

Issues for you to consider as you read the quotes below:

  • What ongoing links do you have with your professional body?
  • Have you explored whether you could carry out research in an area of mutual interest?
  • Are there any of your professional body’s activities where you could contribute an academic perspective?

I think the link between academia and my professional body is hugely important. There is an increasing emphasis within the academic, the higher education world, on employability and the skills that are needed for employability. And it is important to understand what the profession is. What is required to understand the link between the purely theoretical and the practice is incredibly valuable. It is so important to have qualified professionals within academia because that link, if it is severed, will mean that the academic world will go off in a completely different direction, potentially.

Lucy, Teaching Fellow - 80% teaching and 20% research

When I started in academia I quite quickly ascertained how far away from the profession most of the lecturers have fallen. Not in terms of the techie stuff, but just in terms of what's going on. But the thing I feel guilty about is I have a great relationship with my professional body and I probably would be fairly well trusted with if there was a research question that they wanted asking. And I feel that I probably haven't made the best of that. I feel that perhaps I could more easily do a piece of research that is empirically valid, really useful to the profession, probably would give me a decent research profile, get published, maybe even get me into a conference or whatever, through that route.

Eric, Principal Lecturer - 100% teaching contract

I've been thinking lately, I know everyone is doing it, but I would like to do my own PhD on the future of the accounting profession. I've just realised that if we can do proper research, because we are afforded the time to do it, that's the difference between us and someone in practice. We are given time to think about it and do research. Then we can come up with the needs and the gap analysis, and the solutions to take. If we as academia can then say, but based on our research, and based on what we worked on together with practice and commerce, and whatever the case may be, this is the solution. I mean then you can start building a sustainable profession again. It's based on research that people develop the sciences, your natural sciences. I'm exceptionally pro research.

Frank, Senior Lecturer - 80% teaching and 20% research

I was on the Education Committee of my professional body and there is such a dominance on such committees of the practice view, and the Big Four view particularly. What the education role, the pre-qualification role, is about is how they will be better practitioners. Anything that’s not strictly about syllabus and knowledge is extra. Where I, obviously, would like to think that Chartered Accountants have some sense of, or have thought about, the nature of, professions. What distinguishes professions from other occupations? And continuing education, what should that be for Accountants? Again, that has a tendency to be about topping up technical knowledge or maybe, as people have career moves, to give them particular skills around leadership or people management. But that essence of who we are as professionals doesn’t really feature. I think that sense that I have, from having looked at these things in an academic way, feeds into my contribution in the profession.

Grace - Professor involved in teaching, administration and research

My professional body often gets asked to comment on policy documents and I started giving feedback to that as well because that’s the way in. In a very small way, I think you can start to influence opinion a little bit.

Isabel, Senior Lecturer - 100% teaching

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