Accounting Dept. Chair Khondkar Karim Outlines Goals, Discusses Challenges

A man in glasses and a blazer poses for a photo while working on a laptop at his desk Image by Ed Brennen
Fostering interdisciplinary collaborations is just one area of focus for the Manning School of Business' new director of research, Accounting Prof. and Dept. Chair Khondkar Karim.

By Ed Brennen

To help support the growth and impact of faculty research in the Manning School of Business, Accounting Prof. and Dept. Chair Khondkar Karim was recently named the school’s director of research.

Karim is responsible for a wide range of initiatives in his newly created role, including mentoring junior faculty and Ph.D. students, developing interdisciplinary collaborations, overseeing research databases such as Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS), and assisting with accreditation reports for the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The director of research will work with the dean’s leadership team.

“Research is critical to the success of the Manning School of Business, and Karim’s dedicated academic leadership and enthusiasm for working collaboratively within the college and university will help support our goals,” says Rist Family Endowed Dean of Business Sandra Richtermeyer.

Karim, who created the Manning School’s Research Advancement Committee shortly after joining the accounting faculty in 2011, has published more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals. He focuses his research on topics such as financial, managerial and behavioral accounting, judgment decision-making and corporate social responsibility. He will remain department chair and continue teaching while serving as director of research.

“I'm glad that people have shown confidence in me for this undertaking,” says Karim, who sat down recently to discuss his new role.

Q: What are some of your priorities for promoting research in the Manning School?

A: Interdisciplinary research is a major focus for the school; we can’t remain in our silos. Maybe accounting can collaborate with management information systems, or international business with marketing. We are also organizing user training for the WRDS database and its multiple subsections, which will be beneficial for both faculty and Ph.D. students. Mentoring junior faculty and Ph.D. students for their research is another critical piece. If you want to retain good faculty, you’ve got to mentor them, because when they are successful, you are successful. At the same time, you need to mentor Ph.D. students, because they are the future of academia. And we need to find new ways to celebrate faculty success for research. We want to have a platform on the Manning School website where faculty can share their publication in a peer-reviewed journal or their conference proceeding with the academic community.

Q: How does faculty research in the Manning School help the university elevate to Research 1 (R1) status, the highest level awarded by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education — and one of Chancellor Julie Chen’s top goals?

A: There are a lot of variables for R1, but two major variables are funded research and the number of Ph.D.'s we produce. For funded research, the university is in great shape because of engineering and science; they're phenomenal because they're top-notch in STEM. Ph.D. production is also great in science and engineering. The business school is doing a great job in terms of quality and quantity of Ph.D. production, but we must bring this to the next level. If you want to improve the number of Ph.D. graduates, you need to bring a lot of high-quality Ph.D. students in the program. It is a domino effect that will indirectly help the R1 status.

Q: Those engineering and science researchers you mentioned receive sizable grants from organizations such as the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Yet, funding opportunities for business researchers seems more limited. How do you overcome this?

A: That was one of the issues that came up at a recent department chair meeting: How do you start or motivate funded research in the social sciences? Because we do not do the kind of research that science, engineering and medical folks do. The NSF does not have a program where it funds business school research. So, this is definitely a challenge. The only way you can maneuver this is if business school faculty can team up on a research project with somebody from the STEM area. Someone like (Assoc. Prof. of Operations and Information Systems) Asil Oztekin — he is a business school faculty member trained in industrial engineering, and his research area is analytics in the health care industry, so he collaborates with the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences. That's how you do it. You cannot propose a stand-alone project in, say, accounting, because no one is going to fund that. If they see that an accounting faculty member is doing a joint project with somebody from STEM, the potential for funding is very high.

Q: How can Manning School faculty ensure that their published research is accessible to practitioners in the business world, not to mention the general public?

A: I always tell authors to make sure their research paper includes a section with the practical implication of the study. Practitioners lose interest when they see academic papers with applied focus, so one of the things we should do is have an annual joint research conference where every department in the business school presents maybe five papers from their disciplines. We can invite our college Advisory Board members so they can see what the school is doing. Advisory boards are like the nexus of all the practitioners; when they learn what kind of papers we’re presenting, that information is disseminated among practitioners in the community and in Boston. So, they’ll know our research is closely connected with real-world applied work, such as the impact of artificial intelligence on audit planning.

Q: Why should undergraduate students take advantage of research opportunities, such as the Business and Entrepreneur Scholars in Training (BEST) program or the Behavioral Research Hub (BeHub)?

A: Research helps you improve your critical thinking. It makes you more analytical. And if you're doing numbers-based research, it improves your quantitative skills. You also improve your communication skills — your writing and speaking — when conducting and presenting research. These things are extremely important when you join the workforce. If you join the public accounting profession, or any industry, you have extensive contact with people. You have to know how to speak, you have to know how to write, and you have to have critical-thinking skills. Once you do research as an undergraduate student, you improve all these things together. It has a lot of collateral benefits to go to the next level.