Academic Empathy Dialogue on Auditing

Posted by ARC Commitee - Mar 21, 2022

The EAA Virtual Activities Committee is pleased to announce that the next Academic Empathy Dialogue (AED) on “Auditing”. The AED will host Marleen Willekens (Faculty of Economics and Business, KU Leuven, Belgium) and Bertrand Malsch (Smith School of Business, Queens University, Canada), mediated by Christopher Humphrey (Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, England) on 15 September at 17:00 CEST.

The recording is available here.

The statutory financial audit is an inherently puzzling function.  It is replete with extensive formal international auditing standards but its practice sits alongside a persistent audit expectations gap.  Auditing professionals stress their ‘public’ interest obligations but frequently remind us that the ‘public’ does not properly appreciate the fundamental role of audit.  Audit is said to be vital to a vibrant functioning capital market but itself is frequently categorised as mundane and boring.  It is a function that repeatedly reviews and revisits its future but, historically, has struggled to develop its core purpose, even when technological developments have appeared to offer much potential.  Audit used to be self-regulated, something heralded as an essential component of audit professionalism, but is now firmly under the oversight of independent regulators – yet there are still evident concerns about the commercial pressures facing auditors and frequent emphasis on the need to enhance competition and choice in the audit ‘market’.  Audit exists because of a certain level of societal distrust yet independent audit regulation is persistently justified on the basis of seeking to restore confidence and trust in audit; a task that usually has to start anew when a new major corporate scandal and suspected audit failure breaks out in the media.  For all its problems, audit is still a service provided by highly profitable accounting firms that make explicit commitments to developing a better working world and delivering on a new equation.  Such public good claims, however, have not yet established the notion of an ‘audit society’ as the ideal depiction of societal well-being.  While such firms continue to recruit enormous numbers of university graduates to train as auditors, they increasingly struggle to retain people in audit once they have professionally qualified and fear that they no longer attract the ‘brightest and the best’.  Or is the fundamental problem and primary constraint on audit development the way in which modern businesses are run and governed?

For audit researchers such a state of affairs provides a multiplicity of opportunities not just to contribute to understandings of audit practice but the potential to develop and enhance the societal contribution of audit and the ways in which auditing professionals are educated and trained.  Accordingly, the core topic to be explored and debated in this latest EAA academic empathy dialogue session is where stands auditing research and what is it capable of offering as  we move forward in a world that at one level claims to be rebuilding and promising to be so different post-pandemic and, at another, is mired in conflict and disharmony?

Specific questions that will addressed in the session include:

What really matters in auditing research?

What makes auditing research matter (and to whom)?

Have the questions addressed by audit research and the opportunities and challenges significantly changed over the years?

How would you characterise the contribution being made by auditing research? What would you particularly highlight in terms of knowledge development and public policy impact?

What makes for ‘good’ research evidence?

Would you draw any distinction between the search for causality and understanding?  Or between intellectual insight and lived experience?

How do you view the balance between research achievements and developmental possibilities?

What perspectives, sentiments, emphases or commitments should be most prominent in auditing research? Where do we need to focus, listen, think, question, talk or share more? Of what should we do less?

How culturally and socially sensitive should audit research be?

How would you represent and position the relationship between audit research, auditing education and audit professionalism?

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