CAQ, AAA team to give researchers access to audit firm personnel

BY KEN TYSIAC
January 17, 2013

A new program announced Thursday by the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) and the Auditing Section of the American Accounting Association (AAA) will help accounting and auditing academics gain access to audit firm personnel to participate in academic research projects.

The joint venture between the CAQ and AAA Auditing Section is designed to help generate research on issues that are relevant to audit practice.

Doctoral students and tenure-track professors are the initial group to be provided access to audit firm staff to complete data collection protocols through the Access to Audit Personnel program.

“We hope to encourage scholars to focus their research and teaching in auditing, which is critical to the sustainability of the profession,” CAQ Executive Director Cindy Fornelli said in a statement. “We thank our member firms for opening their doors to the next generation of accounting and auditing professors.”

The CAQ is affiliated with the AICPA.

Firms that are CAQ Governing Board members have agreed to participate in the program, which requires doctoral students and tenure-track professors to submit a request for proposal (RFP) to a committee of senior academics and audit practitioners.

The RFP will require the researchers to provide a detailed description of their research, methodology, and how the research will fit into the existing literature. The full criteria for the RFP are available on the CAQ’s website.

A total of five proposals will be approved this year by the committee in what will be an annual program, and the requests will be forwarded to the firms, which have pledged to cooperate. The deadline for RFPs to be submitted is April 22.

The program is designed to break down a barrier to relevant research that has existed in accounting and auditing for years. One objective for the profession described in the Pathways Commission report that charts a national strategy for the next generation of accountants was to focus more academic research on relevant practice issues. The report said greater collaboration between academic researchers and professional practitioners is needed.

In auditing research, that collaboration should increase as a result of this project.

“It provides access to auditors, people actually practicing auditing, to help us find and answer questions that can be helpful to them,” said Roger Martin, president of the AAA Auditing Section. “Often, if we can’t find auditors to help with this research, we end up using students as participants, or other proxies for auditors. And that’s never very satisfying. It’s helpful, but not as good as getting access to those people doing the things we want to research.”

Martin said firms are accustomed to working with established, veteran researchers, who use their professional contacts to gain access to appropriate auditing personnel. But many younger researchers haven’t yet developed those contacts, and they are the focus of the new program.

Dealing with research requests can be difficult for firms, Martin said, because they receive many different requests from different channels. They have had to vet the researchers and projects on their own, and it has been difficult for them to evaluate whether they are helping enough, or helping the right researchers.

The new program standardizes that process for the firms, Martin said, and it is hoped that firms will benefit from a streamlined process as well as more relevant research that can help them improve their performance.

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA senior editor.

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