In Our Ivory Towers? The Research-Practice Gap in Management Accounting: An Academic Perspective

86 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2012

See all articles by Basil P. Tucker

Basil P. Tucker

University of South Australia

Lee Parker


Date Written: August 15, 2012


Motivated by repeated observations in the management accounting literature concerning the relevance of academic research to policy and practice communities, this study reports on an exploratory investigation of the perceptions and attitudes of a sample of 64 senior management accounting academics from 55 universities in 14 countries about the extent to which academic management accounting research does, and should inform practice. Drawing on Diffusion of Innovations theory as a point of departure, and based on evidence obtained from a questionnaire survey and subsequent interviews, our findings reveal the prevalence of two broad schools of thought. One school, represented by the majority of senior academics, and which we have identified as, the ‘majority view’, holds there is a significant and widening ‘gap’ between academic research and the practice of management accounting, and that this gap is of considerable concern. In contrast, the other school, which we identify as ‘the minority view’, holds that a divide between academic management accounting research and practice is appropriate, and that efforts to bridge this divide are unnecessary, untenable or irrelevant. From this empirical evidence, we advance a conceptual framework distinguishing between the ‘means’ and ‘ends’ of academic research which enables these two opposing schools to be located relative to each other. On the basis of this framework, we contend that framing the relationship between academic research and practice as a ‘gap’ is potentially an oversimplification, and directs attention away from the broader but fundamental question of the role and societal relevance of academic research in management accounting.

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

JEL Classification: M41

Suggested Citation

Tucker, Basil P. and Parker, Lee, In Our Ivory Towers? The Research-Practice Gap in Management Accounting: An Academic Perspective (August 15, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Basil P. Tucker (Contact Author)

University of South Australia ( email )

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

Lee Parker


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