Centre for Interdisciplinary Accounting Research

A slightly different approach to accounting studies

The Centre was established on 1st October, 2021 at the Department of Accounting, Faculty of Management, University of Lodz, on the initiative of Przemysław Kabalski. The inspiration for its creation was a unique scientific session entitled ‛People in Accounting’. It was organised as part of the Polish National Congress of Accounting Departments in Gdansk in September 2021. Six participants of that session: Nelli Artienwicz, Elżbieta Jaworska, Przemysław Kabalski, Dominika Korzeniowska, Ewa Wanda Maruszewska and Marta Nowak, representing six different universities, are the founders of the Centre.

Despite the formal affiliation with one university, the initiative is nationwide (and to some extent even international). The Centre’s team consists of scientists conducting ‛slightly different research on accounting’ from various research centres (Lodz, Warsaw, Cracow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Gdansk, Szczecin, Katowice, and Göteborg). The originator of the name of the Centre is Prof. Barbara Czarniawska and ‛A Slightly Different Theory of Organisation’ is the title of her book. At the Centre, we intend to develop and promote ‛slightly different accounting studies.’ What does this actually mean?

In the science of accounting in Poland (in the world as well, although to a lesser extent), the so-called mainstream research dominates. The subject of its interest is information contained in financial statements and reports (external) or in management accounting reports along with the methods and tools used to create this information. Therefore, researchers seek answers to questions such as, e.g.: What methods do companies use to measure various types of assets? Do companies ‛smooth’ their earnings? What is the structure and content of integrated reports? What costing methods do companies use? How often is the balanced scorecard used? If one seeks in these studies the reasons for a given accounting practice, then the industry, size of the company, production technology used and origin of its capital, etc. are examined. If the effects of these practices are investigated, questions are raised about their impact on performance, financial as well as competitive position, or about the usefulness of the information developed on their basis for internal and external users. These are certainly important questions and issues. However, we want to get to the different and sometimes deeper causes and effects of applying specific accounting concepts, methods, techniques, and models. We wish to interpret these practices and critique them in a broad context.

The ‛difference’ in the research conducted within the sphere of our interest is not only connected with the subject of research (i.e. people in accounting and in connection with it) but it also applies to the disciplines which researchers draw from or are inspired by in their ‛slightly different accounting research’ as well as research methods. The former is obvious. It is difficult to explore the influence of the characteristics and behaviours of people and their communities on accounting (and vice versa) without referring to other scientific disciplines. Which ones? A variety of disciplines. The obvious fields, such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, ethnology, cultural studies, and ethics. And the less obvious ones, such as philosophy, cognitive science, linguistics, religious studies, critical analysis of discourse and many, many others. We believe that inspiration for the study of accounting can be sought in every field of science. And also in literature, art and popular culture.

Gareth Morgan wrote in his ‛Images of Organization’ that those images are ‛many things at once.’ We have the same understanding of accounting. It can be ‛many things.’ It can be (and sometimes is) a simple and neutral information system. However, it may be a tool for exerting influence, exercising power, an important factor in the construction of social life, etc. From this angle, one can consider information from the accounting system (e.g. as an element of discourse) and the system (as a whole or its individual parts) together with its norms and principles (e.g. as an actant in the network of social relations, as in the theory of the actor-network).

The ‘difference’ in the accounting research promoted and undertaken by our Centre also applies to methods. In the science of accounting (especially in Poland, although recently it is starting to change slightly), the quantitative approach dominates. We intend to promote qualitative research: interviews, observations (from traditional to shadowing), experiments, content analysis and others. This does not mean that we will leave out quantitative research. We believe that if something can be measured well, then there is no reason not to do it. In general, the ‘difference’ found in the research that we will present, promote and conduct will consist in:

  • a ‘different’ approach to the study of what is usually studied, or
  • the traditional study of what is ‘different.’

It is also possible to study what is ‘different’ in a ‘different’ way.

We do not take a uniform position for the whole Centre, we do not adopt a single paradigm or current of thought in terms of the nature of things (in particular social reality), the way it is studied, or the position of man in the world, etc. That would be a contradiction of the idea of the Centre. We represent various ontological and epistemological positions. Our Team comprises modernists and postmodernists, humanists and post-humanists. There are also those among us who do not yet have a specific view of reality and the way of exploring it, which does not prevent them from intuitively conducting interesting and good research. We consider the diversity of views on the world and its study present in our Team to be valuable and mutually inspiring.