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Thursday, 18th April 2024
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Juggling accounting research with teaching Back  
Eamonn J Walsh, PricewaterhouseCoopers Professor of Accounting at the Michael Smurfit Graduation School of Business, UCD, is not to be found in the office until 2:30pm, but is immersed in researching new technologies from daybreak.
8.03 (or so) Swill coffee

8.11 My commute from the kitchen to study takes all of three seconds. I boot up my PC and start programming. Today, I am attempting to develop a technique to create pro-forma financial information for US companies. The aim is to identify the potential impact of the proposed new standard on Mergers and Acquisitions. The US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) released the standard on Valentines Day (the merger accounting massacre?). Since then, I have been trying to develop a robust estimation technique with a colleague in New York. We have spent 13 days with little to show for our efforts. As researchers, we delude ourselves into believing that the breakthrough will come today. We do so in the full knowledge that it probably will not.

8.35 The hard disk begins to whir through the estimation routine. I begin work on a review of a research paper. The paper is at its third round with the journal. At each round I conclude that the authors are far more misguided than I imagined. Having finished the review, I begin work on a teaching note to accompany our new IT course.

9.52 There is an ominous silence from my PC. I briefly inspect the new dataset and then process it with a statistical package. At last, the results appear promising but unsurprising - the pro-formas result in a valuation model that appears to be robust. I save the results and cycle to UCD.

11.10 Swill more coffee

11.11 Scan the FT and the WSJ while dealing with voicemail, email and ‘the post’. Incorporate clippings on Lucent, Xerox and Cendant into my lecture notes. Email my new results, referee report and teaching notes to some colleagues. Catch up on the day’s administrative nightmares with my secretary and our graduate programme manager.

12.00 Proctor a first year examination. Adopt my Big Brother gaze while dreaming up new ways of breaking the monotony of pacing up and down. I toy with throwing snowballs at them but shudder at the thought of the examination appeals. The students ask no questions - a clear sign of a perfectly unambiguous examination paper… or blissful ignorance.

12.50 Lunch with colleagues in the canteen. While the food is uninspiring, the ideas are not. A colleague explains the software engineering considerations associated with sub-contracting in Bangalore.

13.25 Return to my office and connect to an audio feed from the FASB. Today’s deliberations concern joint ventures. The discussion is somewhat predictable. I am relieved when my co-author in New York initiates an internet meeting ten minutes ahead of schedule. We work together on the results from the pro-forma analysis. As we work he teases me about how much he is enjoying his banana chocolate chip muffin - one of the few things I miss about New York. He is also participating in the feed from the FASB and we entertain ourselves with a running commentary.

14.30 Office hours - I am no longer allowed to pretend I am not in my office. I spend the next two hours with students on the Masters of Accounting programme. Almost all of them are working on a joint project on executive compensation in the US. While some are working on accounting and disclosure considerations, others are examining the consequences of alternative schemes for firm performance and corporate financial decisions. Most of the afternoon is spent ensuring that everyone has completed their assigned reading and understand how to manipulate the databases.

16.35 Start evaluating some new groupware with a colleague. We are seeking technologies that will allow us to enhance the learning environment. We sit in our respective offices and impress one another with whiteboard techniques, guided web navigation, threaded discussions and joint authoring. Things take a turn for the worse when we try the audio - my colleague phones to report an alien in his office. We decide to dust off our string and tin cans.

16.50 Administration time again - I deal with the accumulated items of mail, email and voicemail. My mouse assassinates a few items on my ‘To Do’ list.

17.40 Supper in the canteen. A new menu but entirely indistinguishable from lunch.

18.00 Catch up on reading, the markets and today’s announcements and disclosures.

19.00 Conference call with executives from a US multinational. Recently, the company attempted to sweeten a disappointing earnings announcement with the simultaneous announcement of plant closures. Sadly, the stock price has continued south. The executives are also having second thoughts about the wisdom of the closures. I trawl through precedents and the stock price response to reversals. Most of the precedents appear unpromising, with the exception of a spin-off as an alternative to closure. I write a short report that summarises analogous transaction structures.

20.00 End of month database maintenance. For research purposes, we have a variety of proprietary financial reporting, intellectual property, analyst forecast and stock price databases. At the end of each month we incorporate all of the new data during the month and perform validity checks on that data.

20.30 My colleague in New York sends me the new results. During the day, he has used an alternative econometric technique and produced stunning results. I write up a formal proof and we conclude that re-estimation with a partitioned sample is appropriate. We agree a work-plan for March 1. He promises to restrict himself to bagels for breakfast.

21.20 Check US after hours trading and announcements. Respond to new email.

21.30 Two wheel thrill seeking on the dual carriageway.

21.50 Watch a video ‘The Debt Collector’. Decide that many of the collection techniques may be inappropriate for my lecture on bad debts.

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