Practitioners are from Mars; Academics are from Venus? An Empirical Investigation of the Research – Practice Gap in Management Accounting

65 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2011

See all articles by Basil P. Tucker

Basil P. Tucker

University of South Australia

Alan Lowe

School of Accounting; Aston University - Aston Business School - Finance and Accounting Group

Date Written: August 12, 2011

Abstract

As with many academic disciplines, the existence of a gap between research and practice has been much remarked upon by the management accounting academic community. Leading scholars have expressed concern at this gap, and it has been the topic of special academic journal issues, editors’ forums, and conferences. Reasons for this apparent divide and strategies to enhance the relevance and usefulness of management accounting research have been advanced – primarily by academics – yet despite this attention, empirical evidence about the nature, extent and significance of this gap from the point of view of practitioners has been surprisingly limited.

This study contributes to the conversation about the research-practice gap in management accounting by adopting a distinct theoretical vantage point to organize, analyze and interpret empirical evidence obtained through a questionnaire survey and follow-up interviews with 19 representatives of four principal Australian professional accounting bodies. The central aim is to investigate the underlying reasons and their relative significance in preventing academic research engaging more effectively with the practice of management accounting.

Adopting diffusion theory as a guiding orientation, results indicate that the perceived gap between academic research and practice in management accounting is of limited concern to practitioners. The two most significant barriers to research utilization by practitioners are: (i) difficulties in understanding academic research papers; and, (ii) limited access to research findings. Moreover, in acting as a conduit between the worlds of academia and practice, professional accounting bodies have an important role to play by demonstrating and promoting the value of management accounting research to practitioners.

These findings advance theory by suggesting that the diffusion process is cyclical, not linear. Consequently, the relative significance of barriers impeding research more effectively engaging with practice is likely to differ depending on whether the desire is to inform practice with new as distinct from extant academic research. Findings provide a platform from which efforts to bridge the research-practice gap in management accounting may be more effectively planned, orchestrated and implemented.

Keywords: research-practice gap, diffusion theory, management accounting research

JEL Classification: M41

Suggested Citation

Tucker, Basil P. and Lowe, Alan, Practitioners are from Mars; Academics are from Venus? An Empirical Investigation of the Research – Practice Gap in Management Accounting (August 12, 2011). AAA 2012 Management Accounting Section (MAS) Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1908461 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1908461

Basil P. Tucker (Contact Author)

University of South Australia ( email )

37-44 North Terrace
Adelaide SA 5000, South Australia 5001
Australia

Alan Lowe

School of Accounting ( email )

124 La Trobe Street
Melbourne, 3000
Australia

Aston University - Aston Business School - Finance and Accounting Group ( email )

Aston Triangle
Birmingham, B47ET
United Kingdom

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