Academics

Academics and the GASB: A Standards-Setting Partnership

The GASB’s mission is to establish and improve governmental accounting and financial reporting standards that provide the public with the information it needs to make decisions and assess accountability and that educate stakeholders about those standards. Setting high-quality standards requires the significant input and involvement of the GASB’s many kinds of stakeholders, including academics.

Academics offer the GASB a perspective that is unique among its stakeholders in at least three ways. First, academics conduct research that informs the GASB about (1) issues that have arisen in practice that may require new standards or changes to existing standards and (2) the effectiveness of existing standards. Second, academics are knowledgeable about the conceptual foundation of governmental accounting standards, making them informed advisors regarding the development of the GASB’s Conceptual Framework and whether proposed standards are consistent with those concepts. Third, academics train the next generation of financial statement preparers, auditors, and users, thereby having potentially significant influence over practice.

The GASB encourages academics to take advantage of the many opportunities that are available to participate in the setting of governmental accounting standards. We recognize that the professional lives of academics already are busy with teaching and research, particularly when you are working toward tenure. That is why the GASB has launched this part of its website to inform you about what we do to assist with your research and teaching activities and to make it worthwhile to voice your opinions.
 

How Does Academic Research Contribute to Standards Setting?

Standards setting is an outreach- and research-based activity. The GASB conducts extensive literature reviews (including reviewing the work of other standards setters) and studies the preparation and use of state and local government financial reports. A decision by the Board to establish standards is based on a determination, through research and due process activities, that a strong need for information exists among the users of financial statements and that the information can be provided at what is perceived to be a reasonable cost.

However, the GASB technical staff is relatively small—typically about 20 people. Therefore, from its inception in 1984, the GASB has sought to engage the academic community in conducting research that contributes to the GASB’s standards-setting activities. For more than 30 years, such research efforts have resulted in articles in peer-reviewed journals and professional periodicals, GASB research reports, and GASB research briefs.

The contributions of academic research are valuable to every stage of the GASB’s activities: identifying issues that may require standards setting, conducting pre-agenda research, developing proposed and final pronouncements, and monitoring implementation of new standards.

Identifying Standards-Setting Issues

Through their research and their connections with financial statement preparers, auditors, and users in the field, academics become aware of issues arising in practice that may require standards setting. Academics notify the GASB about such issues either directly or through the academic members of the Governmental Accounting Standards Advisory Council.

Pre-Agenda Research

All concepts projects and major projects and many practice issue projects on the GASB’s current technical agenda are preceded by extensive research activities conducted by the GASB’s technical staff. The GASB’s review of existing literature encompasses the research of academics that is published in journals, presented at academic conferences, and issued as reports of research centers. Academic research helps to inform the GASB about the nature of a potential accounting and financial reporting issue, the significance and pervasiveness of the issue, and the possibility of developing feasible solutions.

Standards Setting

Research activities do not always cease at the time the GASB adds a new standards-setting project to its current technical agenda. When issues arise during Board deliberations that require additional research, the technical staff will look for existing relevant academic research, and may engage academics to conduct new research. Academics also lend their expertise to standards setting by commenting on proposed standards and sharing research findings that are germane to the topic.

Monitoring Implementation

The GASB is committed to monitoring practice to address issues that may arise during the implementation of new standards and to ensure that its standards continue to be effective. Academics contribute to these efforts in at least four ways. First, through their connection to practice, academics make the GASB aware of implementation issues as they arise. Second, they serve on advisory groups that advise the GASB as it develops question-and-answer implementation guidance for new and existing pronouncements. Third, they conduct research that focuses on the implementation of standards and its impact on governments and the usefulness of information available to users. Lastly, they participate in surveys and other research conducted by the GASB as part of its post-implementation monitoring activities.
 

How Does the GASB Support Academic Research?

The GASB provides both financial and nonfinancial support to academics conducting research that is relevant to standards setting.

Each year, the GASB awards one or more research grants through the Gil Crain Memorial Research Grant program. The grants support research on existing standards and studies of issues that have not been addressed in existing standards. The annual request for proposals typically is posted to the GASB website in March, with a submission deadline at the end of May and a decision on grant awards by the end of June. Click here for a list of past Crain Grant recipients.

Apart from grants, the GASB provides support to relevant research through a variety of means. Academics can be provided with access to GASB staff members, often those that led the projects resulting in the standards being studied. The GASB may be able to help by introducing academics to knowledgeable professionals and encouraging those individuals to participate in their research, as well as connecting academics with the leadership of relevant stakeholder organizations. The GASB staff can answer questions about the research that preceded standards setting and explain in greater detail the thinking behind the provisions of GASB standards. The GASB also may be able to furnish academics with databases it developed and financial reports it collected during its research.

The GASB also occasionally partners with academics on a research effort, including co-authoring articles for academic and professional journals and papers for presentation at academic conferences.

The GASB encourages its grant recipients and other academics with whom it conducts research to submit the results of their research for publication in a journal after the research results have been submitted to the GASB. Because the research that is most useful to the GASB is applied research, we support work that is part of a larger research effort. Therefore, the GASB generally supports academics gathering additional data that would be needed for publication.

If you have an idea for research that would benefit the GASB or are seeking the GASB’s assistance with your research, please contact Dean Mead, senior research manager and the GASB liaison to the academic community, at 203-956-5294 or dmmead@gasb.org.
 

How Are Academics Involved in Standards Setting?

In addition to conducting relevant research, academics are an important voice throughout the standards-setting process.

What GASB Research and Teaching Resources Are Available?

The GASB publishes materials and offer services that support academic research and teaching and keep stakeholders up-to-date about the latest pronouncements and standards-setting activities. Virtually all GASB publications are available to download or access electronically for no charge. Printed copies of most GASB publications are offered at a 20 percent academic discount, and all can be ordered easily from https://gasb.org/store.

Governmental Accounting Research System—GARS Online

GARS Online provides efficient and effective access to all the necessary governmental accounting literature and has been demonstrated to significantly reduce research time. GARS provides all of the GASB’s official literature in a searchable format: (1) the GASB’s Statements and other pronouncements (including Implementation Guides) in their original versions, with indications of the portions that have been amended or superseded since, and (2) the Codification of all guidance in its current and effective version. The Basic View of GARS is free to all, and the Professional View is free to academics in many colleges and universities. GARS also can be purchased on CD-ROM and installed on a personal computer.

Annual Bound Volumes

The Original Pronouncements, Codification, and Comprehensive Implementation Guide are annually updated and published in printed form to include the most recent GASB pronouncements. Original Pronouncements presents standards for state and local governments comprising generally accepted accounting principles as they were originally published, indicating the portions that have been amended or superseded. The Codification arranges currently effective standards by subject. The Comprehensive Implementation Guide pulls together and updates all previously issued question-and-answer guides, as well as guidance for other standards. All three contain detailed topical indexes and can be purchased individually or in discounted packages.

Final Pronouncements and Due Process Documents

All Statements and other final pronouncements, as well as proposed standards and other due process documents, are available to be downloaded free from the GASB website. Proposed standards include sections that relate the background of the issue that led to the pronouncement and describe the rationale for the Board’s decisions. Those sections in final pronouncements also discuss the feedback received from stakeholders and how the Board addressed their concerns. Final pronouncements and due process documents can be valuable tools for teaching students about specific accounting and financial reporting issues and about the process by which standards are set.

User Guide Series

The guides that make up the GASB’s user guide series are designed to be nontechnical and broadly accessible to anyone from the government finance novice to the long-time public manager. Three guides in the series provide a comprehensive but easy-to-read introduction to the annual financial reports of local governments (counties, cities, towns), public school districts, and business-type activities (such as utilities, hospitals, and colleges). A forth guide is aimed at persons with a basic knowledge of accounting and government finance: it explores how basic analytical techniques may be applied to the information in the financial statements to assess issues such as financial position, financial condition, liquidity, solvency, fiscal capacity, and exposure to risk. Each guide presents annotated illustrations; sidebars exploring issues raised in the text; tips on using financial statement information; easy identification of key terms defined in an exhaustive glossary; and an overview of public-sector accounting and financial reporting. The full user guide series currently is being revised and updated—the local government guide was published in 2017, the Analyst’s Guide in March 2018, and the other two are expected to be available by mid-2018.

Plain-Language Articles

The GASB is committed to communicating about its standards and activities in nontechnical terms when possible. This often involves posting plain-language articles about recent pronouncements and proposals that succinctly and clearly describe what the documents require or propose to require and why. Some articles also explain the standards-setting process and how the public can participate in it. These articles are ideal for providing a quick overview of a topic. The GASB also publishes the quarterly GASB Outlook, which includes short articles, videos, and infographics about recent and ongoing developments at the GASB. Professors and students can sign up to automatically receive GASB Outlook and email news updates as documents are issued.

Videos, Podcasts, and Webcasts

The GASB website offers short video presentations about recent pronouncements, proposals, and ongoing activities. New videos are added regularly. The GASB also occasionally conducts free educational webcasts about proposed standards and recent pronouncements. Those webcasts sometimes offer CPE credit.

Research Publications

Some studies supported by the GASB have been published as official GASB Research Reports or GASB Research Findings. These GASB publications address many of the seminal issues that form the foundation of major pronouncements—such as Statement 14 on the financial reporting entity, Statement 34 on the financial reporting model, and the Suggested Guidelines for Voluntary Reporting of service efforts and accomplishments information—and are an important part of the governmental accounting literature. More recently, the GASB has posted Research Briefs to its website that summarize the results of research conducted on overarching issues such as the timeliness of financial reporting and compliance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Research Reports and Research Findings can be purchased through the GASB website. For a complete list of all GASB research publications, open the next section below on GASB Research Publications.

Research Memoranda

At the conclusion of a pre-agenda research effort, the GASB technical staff prepares an educational memorandum summarizing the results of the research for the Board to review and discuss in a public meeting. That discussion generally takes place at the meeting prior to the Board’s discussion of whether to add a standards-setting project to the GASB’s current technical agenda. For a complete list of all GASB research memoranda, open the next section below on GASB Research Publications.

GASB Project Pages

The latest information about projects on the GASB’s standards-setting agenda and pre-agenda research activities can be found easily at www.gasb.org. The website includes pages dedicated to each project, featuring current developments, tentative decisions, recent minutes, background information on the project, project history, accounting and financial reporting issues being addressed, and work plan. The pages are updated after each meeting of the Board.

GASB Meeting Webcasts and Recordings

Meetings of the Board generally are broadcast live on the GASB website. Recordings of the meeting webcasts remain on the site for 30 days following the meeting. Recordings of GASAC meetings are posted the following day and also remain available for a month.

Research Grants

As described above, the GASB annually offers grants to support research that is relevant to projects on its technical agenda through its Gil Crain Memorial Research Grant program. The GASB encourages research on issues that may require standards setting and evaluations of the effectiveness of existing standards. In addition to monetary support, academics also benefit from the expertise of the GASB staff and the GASB’s professional contacts and administrative resources.

GASB Speakers

Academics and other stakeholders can request GASB technical staff to speak at their conferences and other meetings via the speaker request portal on the GASB website. The GASB generally requires host organizations to reimburse reasonable out-of-pocket travel costs, though that requirement may be waived in some instances. One way to minimize costs is to arrange a speaking engagement on a date when a GASB staff member is scheduled to speak nearby. A calendar of confirmed GASB speaking engagements is updated regularly on the GASB website.

Student Visits

The GASB and FASB regularly host groups of visiting students at the GASB/FASB offices in Norwalk, CT. If you would like more information about a student visit, please contact Joe Vernuccio at (203) 847-0700.

Technical Inquiries

Academics and other stakeholders can pose technical questions about GASB standards using a form on the GASB website. Questions submitted through the technical inquiry portal are directed to the technical staff member best suited to answer—usually one of the staff involved in the development of the standards.

 

GASB Research Publications

GASB Research Reports and Research Findings can be purchased from the GASB store website. Research Briefs and Summaries and Research Memoranda are available to download from the GASB website.

Research Reports
Research Findings
Special Report
Research Briefs and Summaries
Research Memoranda
 

GASB Research Reports

Title Author(s) Date
An Empirical Study of Governmental Financial Reporting Entity Issues James Patton 1987
A Study of the Usefulness of Disclosures Required by GASB Standards Leon Hay 1988
Financial Reporting by State and Local Governments: A Survey of Preferences among Alternative Formats Earl Wilson 1990
Financial Reporting Practices of Local Governments Robert Ingram & Walter Robbins 1987
Information Needs of College and University Financial Decision Makers John Engstrom 1988
Infrastructure Assets: An Assessment of User Needs and Recommendations for Financial Reporting Relmond Van Daniker and Vernon Kwiatkoski 1988
The Needs of Users of Governmental Financial Reports David Jones 1985
Other Postemployment Benefits in State and Local Governmental Units L. Charles Bokemeier, Relmond Van Daniker & Sharon Parrish 1990
Popular Reporting: Local Government Financial Reports to the Citizenry Vivian Carpenter & Florence Sharp 1992
The Relationships between Financial Reporting and the Measurement of Financial Condition Robert Byrne 1992
Report on the GASB Citizen Discussion Groups on Performance Reporting James Fountain, Wilson Campbell, Paul Epstein & Brett Robinson 2002
Service Efforts and Accomplishments Reporting: It’s Time Has Come—An Overview Harry Hatry, James Fountain, Jonathan Sullivan & Lorraine Kremer 1990
Service Efforts and Accomplishments Reporting: Elementary and Secondary Education Harry Hatry, Marita Alexander & James Fountain 1989
Service Efforts and Accomplishments Reporting: Fire Department Programs Robert Parry, Florence Sharp, Jannet Vreeland & Wanda Wallace 1991
Service Efforts and Accomplishments Reporting: Mass Transit Wanda Wallace 1991
Service Efforts and Accomplishments Reporting: Police Department Programs Allan Drebin & Marguerite Brannon 1992
Service Efforts and Accomplishments Reporting: Public Health Vivian Carpenter, Linda Ruchala & John Waller 1991
Service Efforts and Accomplishments Reporting: Road Maintenance William Hyman, Roeman Alfelor & John Allen 1993
Service Efforts and Accomplishments Reporting: Sanitation Collection and Disposal Marc Rubin 1991
Service Efforts and Accomplishments Reporting: Water and Wastewater Treatment Priscilla Burnaby & Susan Herhold 1990
Small Government Financial Reporting Rhoda Icerman 1996
 

GASB Research Findings

Title Date
Federal, State, and Local Government Assistance to Governmental Colleges and Universities 1992
Food Stamps, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and Commodities Programs 1989
The Needs of Users of Financial Statements of Governmental Business-Type Activities 1994
Reporting of Reverse Repurchase Agreement and Securities Lending Transactions 1996
State Aid to Local Governments and Individuals 1991
 

GASB Special Report

Title Date
Reporting Performance Information: Suggested Criteria for Effective Communication 2003
 

GASB Research Briefs and Summaries

Title Date
Survey on the Development and Use of SEA Performance Measures 1997
Survey on the Use and Effect of SEA Performance Measures 1998
State and Local Government Use of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for General Purpose External Financial Reporting 2008
The Timeliness of Financial Reporting by State and Local Governments Compared with the Needs of Users 2011
 

GASB Research Memoranda

Title Date
Asset Retirement Obligations July 2014
Blending Requirements for Certain Business-Type Activities July 2014
Conduit Debt July 2017
Fiduciary Responsibilities August 2013
Financial Reporting Model July 2015
Irrevocable Charitable Trusts May 2014
Pensions April 2008
Revenue Recognition March 2016
Social Impact Bonds (Pay-for-Success Financings) November 2017
Tax Abatements December 2013