Data Collection Remains a Challenge in Archival Research

Data Collection in the EU

Two weeks ago, Audit Analytics had the pleasure of attending the 2021 Annual Congress, hosted by the European Accounting Association (EAA).

As defined by the EAA, “the Annual Congress of the European Accounting Association is a major event that takes place in a different country during springtime each year. The EAA Annual Congress offers a unique opportunity for presenting research and finding out what colleagues in the fields of management and accounting are doing. Every year between 1,200 and 1,500 delegates attend this popular event and around 800 and 1,000 papers are presented in parallel sessions and research fora. In addition, the EAA Annual Congress provides a friendly and sociable context in which one can meet colleagues from other countries, formulate joint research projects, and generally keep in touch with European trends in education and research.”

This three-day virtual event focused on embracing change, and the agenda was full of sessions, symposia, and various discussions.

Aside from being a gold sponsor, Audit Analytics proudly sponsored a symposium. During the symposium, we dove into the challenges and opportunities of data collection and quality for archival research.

Our Director of Research Analytics, Derryck Coleman, was joined by Jacob Justus Leidner (University of Würzburg, Germany), Beatriz Garcia Osma (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain), Jeremy Jennings (Regulatory Solutions, Belgium), and moderator Ann Vanstraelen (Maastricht University, Netherlands) to discuss the importance of accurate, comprehensive, and comparable data throughout Europe to create reliable and compelling research.

The symposium, Data Collection for Archival Research, focused on the creation of databases that are both descriptive and universal, the importance of accessible and reliable data, and the role and responsibility of academic archival research in policy development. Coleman began the symposium by speaking specifically about the obstacles involved in collecting data. He explained that there are five key characteristics in quality archival data:

  • completeness;
  • accuracy;
  • comparability;
  • history; and
  • acceptance.

He then addressed one of the major hurdles of archival research: availability.

Coleman explained that researchers face a lot of challenges when it comes to simply collecting and normalizing European data — let alone finding data that fits these five characteristics. Many researchers face complications due to different report locations, missing data, and differing rules and reporting requirements.

EU-level data consolidation remains a challenge, due to a lack of national data on turnover and revenues, different reporting periods and differences in the implementation of EU audit legislation.

European Commission’s triannual report

Following Coleman, Leidner further emphasized the difficulties faced in archival research. However, he focused particularly on the reliance on databases and the importance of:

  • answering research questions accurately;
  • avoiding unintended misinterpretations;
  • ensuring replicability and validation of results;
  • assisting in policy/rulemaking examination and enforcement; and
  • facilitating the development of further relevant research questions.

Garcia Osma spoke next — also touching on the difficulties of data collection. However, she primarily spoke about the opportunities and pitfalls of databases from both the researchers’ and the databases’ positions. She concluded by reiterating that it is important that all studies and papers are reproducible.

A few challenges that Osma highlighted when discussing databases were:

  • database choice and coverage;
  • differences in data across databases;
  • differing industry classifications;
  • delisting biases; and
  • forecasting error metrics.

Similarly, she highlighted the challenges that researchers face. It’s extremely difficult for researchers to prime data and access accurate and reliable resources — all while maintaining transparency in their methodology so that their study can be replicated.

Garcia Osma went on to explain that data access is a competitive (dis)advantage. Without access to WRDS, empirical archival research is challenging, and this advantage multiplies if a university has access to proprietary data.

Concluding the symposium, Jennings explained the necessity for data that is independent, reliable, consistent, and sufficient. He emphasized the importance of creating a methodology from high-quality data that is sound, logical, and reflects the real world. Finally, he highlighted the value of incorporating a robust system of checks and balances that includes peer and external review.

Jennings reminded the academic community that, when it comes to setting policy, the academic community has a louder voice than many and that high-quality academic research cannot be understated.

“The academic work and research that you do will and does influence the passage of legislation and public policy.”

Jeremy Jennings

While this only summarizes our symposium, several Audit Analytics colleagues sat in on different sessions and panels throughout the conference. Our colleagues found that most of the sessions delivered a similar message: it is difficult to ensure data quality while performing archival research.

Audit Analytics prides itself on being a leading independent research and data provider of audit, regulatory, and disclosure intelligence. Founded in 2003, we offer 70+ comprehensive databases of normalized qualitative data available through an easy-to-use interface. With an unprecedented level of accuracy, our expert team of researchers collects, organizes, and analyzes our data with rigor. This effort ensures researchers have access to information they can trust that can be easily vetted and reproduced. 

Watch the video below to learn more about how Audit Analytics contributes to and empowers the academic community.

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