Consequences for New Zealand accounting knowledge discovery of distant performance measurement of the academic person: A retrospective analysis.
Purpose – University academics are an important source of the discovery of knowledge about accounting practice and accounting learning in New Zealand. This paper considers the consequences for the Pacific society of New Zealand of beginning to measure this discovery activity by subjecting the individual performances of these academics to scrutiny based on the criteria of publishing items in periodicals that appear on lists compiled in Australia. The lists in question are compiled by the Australian Business Deans Council (ABDC) and by the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) Initiative. Design/methodology/approach – A longitudinal approach is taken, including by reviewing the literature on developments in New Zealand universities and higher education in New Zealand for over a century; and by analysing the publication over more than two decades of knowledge about accounting practice and accounting learning in New Zealand in periodicals appearing on the ABDC and ERA lists. Each journal and magazine associated with accounting was identified, including some journals not classified on the lists as accounting and some journals not on either list. Various data were derived on each periodical, including about editors and editorial boards, and about articles that contained the words “New Zealand”. The articles were downloaded and perused to ascertain why these words appeared. Articles that are based on empirical data from New Zealand were classified by topic areas. Findings – Of the three activities associated with accounting in New Zealand universities (i.e. professional accounting education and assessment, undergraduate and postgraduate accounting learning and teaching, accounting research), research has been the last to develop. Now, it is often given highest priority, at least in the rhetoric used by some of the people in managerial and collegial positions who set priorities inside universities, if not in terms of internal university departmental resourcing or in terms of expressions of priorities by society, the New Zealand Government, the accounting profession and accounting students. This high priority has led to formal academic performance management systems, and related incentives and penalties, all increasingly focused on individual accounting academics and the rate at which they are publishing in accounting periodicals, the vast majority of which are on the ABDC and ERA lists. However, analysis of periodicals on these lists and other journals identified but not on either list indicates that there are few journal publication outlets directly associated with New Zealand for knowledge discovered about accounting practice and accounting learning in New Zealand. Indeed, despite their Australian origin, or perhaps because of it, most of the journals are edited in places on the rim of the North Atlantic, and of 3 the countless languages used in the modern Pacific, only English-language journals appear (except for Canada-based journals, which are obliged to provide English and French translations). The analysis also indicates that New Zealand accounting academics have and continue to publish their work in foreign-based journals, more in Australia and the United Kingdom than in the United States of America and Canada. It can be inferred from some article titles and other ad hoc evidence that the academics in question have had to modify the way the knowledge is reported to suit the foreign editors and, presumably, readers, which is probably at odds with how a New Zealand audience would prefer the knowledge to be reported. The analysis also indicates that to publish about New Zealand in foreign journals there is some advantage in studying areas in which New Zealand is seen as a “world leader” in the topic (e.g. structural adjustment, New Public Management, environmental accounting) but not in areas about which the outside world is oblivious (e.g. New Zealand’s multicultural array of people and organisations, including the Maori people).