How many of you work for a university that only values “A-hits”?  To the non-academics, this mean that a publication in one of 3 or so top journals counts as meeting the research expectations placed on the faculty member.  Publication(s) in other journals do not count.  Recently, my institution elevated the value of A-hits, but other publications still count some.  My impression from talking to colleagues is that many other schools are valuing A-hits only.

I do NOT want this post to degrade into journal/editor bashing.  The top journals have earned a reputation amongst us academics.  Rather the issue to me is the long-term ramifications for accounting research from this move by deans and provosts to (a) judge research quality purely by journal quality, and (b) to assign extremely low weights to publications in good journals that do not happen to be on the school’s A list.  The issue came up during the PhD Coordinators’ breakfast at AAA.  Several folks spoke eloquently on how this could really curtail the scope of inquiry in accounting research and make it almost impossible for new and novel areas of research to develop.  Again, I am not saying a school should value every publication equally; the concern is putting zero value on something that later proves to be a key innovation in our discipline, with the zero value arising simply because the research was not quite what the A journals wanted to publish.

Now, the tie back to policy research.  Holly Skaife mentioned in her reply to my post about the IASB “As I stated in the session, the information needs of the IASB and IFRS Foundation include institutional details or basic descriptive evidence that is not always sufficient for publication in our academic journals (e.g., what are the pension laws in countries that adopt IFRS and do those laws mandate pension funding requirements).”  Actually, some journals are willing to publish important descriptive evidence about practice.  Accounting Horizons has valued that sort of paper.  But a publication in Horizons might not be counted by the faculty member’s dean.

I want to encourage folks who want to work on policy related research to keep working, even if that research might be destined for less than an A journal.  To back up my encouragement, I want to replay an exchange that occurred in a panel session at the AAA.

Audience member:  we academics publish interesting work that is relevant for the standard setter, but because it is not in the A journal, the standard setter does not pay attention to it.

Standard setter: The FASB has a subscription to a host of journals.  Many of the Board members and staff regularly receive the table of contents of each new issue, and our library furnishes us copies of articles that are relevant to our projects as needed.  This is done for 10 or 12 journals, not just the top 3.

My point is this, as a researcher, is it more important to have perceived impact (something your dean counts) or real impact (something policy makers read)?  I know you have to pay attention to the former, especially for untenured faculty.  But the latter seems a lot more important to me.]]>