Transparency of public finances

Magnifying glass focusing on the word policy

The importance of transparency in relation to public finances is a theme that Professor David Heald has been exploring throughout his career. It is widely accepted that accountability in the management of public finances is crucial to sustaining the reputation and existence of public services. Lack of transparency undermines legitimacy and encourages corruption. Professor Heald's work has improved fiscal transparency by influencing parliamentary debate and affecting changes to policy and practice in government, both nationally and internationally. His research has also impacted current issues such as fiscal devolution, Brexit and the fiscal response to COVID-19.

Professional ethics

Two businessmen considering different paths

Professor Catriona Paisey’s research focuses on the restoration of public trust within the accountancy profession. Specifically, she has investigated the ethical development of chartered accountants and the ethical dilemmas that they face. By studying the development of the accounting professional through every stage of education and training, Professor Paisey's research has informed revisions to an International Educational Standard, IES 7 Continuing Professional Development. Her work has also influenced policymakers, leading the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) to develop ethics guidance for its members, encouraging them to speak up when they have concerns and to foster more effective listening cultures within their organisations. Following the financial scandals of the early twenty-first century, Professor Paisey’s work seeks to contribute to the restoration of worldwide public trust in the accountancy profession.

Adam Smith Observatory of Corporate Reporting Practices

The Adam Smith Observatory of Corporate Reporting Practices, led by Professor Yannis Tsalavoutas, is a research hub consisting of a global network of academics. The main objective of this initiative is to generate and promote impactful research which will inform corporate entities, professional bodies and policymakers internationally. The Observatory was established in January 2020 with funding support from the University’s Chancellor’s Fund and the Adam Smith Business School. Projects conducted by members of the network have since received additional funding from accounting professional bodies such as ACCA and ICAS as well as The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland. The Observatory has published three monographs and its members have disseminated the findings of this work to accounting standard setters, practitioners and regulators from around the world. Opportunities for collaborative work are always welcomed and should be directed to Professor Tsalavoutas at   

COVID-19: Containment and control in Asia

Woman wearing a face mask and looking at her phone

Dr Paul Ahn and Professor Danture Wickramasinghe’s research into the management of COVID-19 in South Korea illustrates how big data analytics, in this case track and trace technologies, pushed the limits of individuals’ accountability. Whilst the use of surveillant technologies was shown to be an effective way to control the crisis, the freedom and privacy of ordinary citizens was consequently compromised. Dr Ahn and Professor Wickramasinghe’s research contributes to the debate on how policymakers can strike a balance to ensure effective crisis control which does not undermine individual privacy. Socially, it questions to what extent individuals’ personal information should be protected and how governments will be held accountable for the legitimate use of such information.

With funding from the UKRI Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research, Dr Yingru Li and colleague Professor Jane Duckett (Politics) explore the Chinese government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As infection rates in China have slowed considerably compared to many countries, the apparent success of the authorities' measures to curb the spread may encourage others to adopt them. Using documentary policy and media analysis, this project seeks to understand the measures taken, the impact on both rural and urban society, and the public response. Crucially, it wants to explore how public responses have shaped policies. Monitoring these changes is a key element to the project as this will inform the creation of valuable resources for policy makers internationally.

Insolvency work

Stack of coins next to a red arrow pointing down

Professor Yvonne Joyce’s recent collaborative work with Insolvency Support Services addresses several significant policy developments, including the return to preferential status of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the potential for a single insolvency regulator and new pre-pack regulations. The work also focuses on the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on the insolvency profession and the challenges facing the profession as it enters a busy period. Findings provide insight to the insolvency profession, the Insolvency Service (the UK Government regulator) and the Recognised Professional Bodies (RPBs). From a policy perspective, the results indicate how new policies may or may not work in practice and their unintended consequences. From a practice perspective, the results highlight some of the challenges facing the profession in terms of recoveries, profit margins, staffing levels and technological resources. 

Corporate social responsibility

Speaker microphone at a parliamentary-style conference room

In a Leverhulme Trust-funded project, Dr Alvise Favotto and colleague Professor Kelly Kollman (Politics) identified a link between firms’ investment in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities and their access to policymakers in the British political system. In a longitudinal study of FTSE 350 company appearances, Dr Favotto found that the CSR credentials of these corporations significantly shape both their access to policymakers as well as the nature and content of their lobbying. Firms with higher CSR credentials were more likely to meet with British policymakers, both ministry officials and legislators. Crucially, they were also more likely to engage in more responsible forms of lobbying than companies with less developed CSR commitments. This project set out to address the widespread concern about large corporations using their CSR reputations to support de-regulatory lobbying. Its analysis of company committee testimony represents one of the first successful attempts to systematically scrutinise the parliamentary speech of corporate actors.