Jill Atkins, Professor of Accounting, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University
Michael John Jones, or just Mike as many of us knew him, had a long-standing and outstanding academic accounting career. Mike worked for many years at the University of Portsmouth, moving to Cardiff Business School, where he established the long-standing FRBC (Financial Reporting and Business Communications) annual conference in 1997 and later the BAFA FARSIG. He then moved to the University of Bristol. He published well over 100 articles, academic papers, books and book chapters and made a significant and salient contribution to several areas of the academic accounting literature. In essence he was a historian, having read History at Oxford, graduating with an MA from Magdalen College. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. His love of history, and especially his interest in social history, inspired a stream of accounting history research. His first academic papers explored the early accounts of the Oxford Colleges, especially around the 19th century evolution of their accounting methods, publishing for example, ‘The accounting system of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1812’, in Accounting, Business and Financial History, in 1991. His accounting history research also focused on mediaeval manorial accounts. Mike’s conference presentations on mediaeval auditors and tax collectors riding around England on horseback collecting money from the poor to take to the rich landowners were always entertaining to attend. He had a particular interest in the Domesday Book which led to a stream of publications, with one of the most significant theoretical contributions being “Sources of Power and Infrastructural Conditions in Medieval Governmental Accounting”, published in Accounting, Organizations and Society. This paper examined the emergence in the 12th century of Exchequer accounting, using Mann’s Model of the sources of power to study the nature and role that accounting played in medieval governance.
Mike is also well-known for his substantial contribution to the field of financial communication and impression management, especially for his work on financial graphs, readability and understandability in accounting narratives, culminating in an important, world-leading edited book on ‘Creative Accounting, Fraud and International Accounting Scandals’ published in 2011.
From a personal perspective, his most significant and inspirational work has been in the area of social and environmental accounting and assurance, and especially his establishment of accounting for biodiversity as a research area. Mike’s early publications on biodiversity in British Accounting Review and Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal established him as the pioneering researcher in this field. This was certainly a labour of love, arising from a life long interest in nature and especially bird-watching. Mike was never happier than when he was walking across Kenfig Sand Dunes, on the Welsh coast, identifying and cataloguing different species of orchid and other wildflowers, or trudging for hours in the pouring rain across Farlington Marshes near Portsmouth, identifying seabirds and waders through wet binoculars! I remember him having long conversations at accounting conferences with other ‘twitchers’ like Keith Maunders and Jack Christian, on bird migration and species sightings. Mike’s work in accounting for biodiversity spans 30 years, with his earliest papers establishing a means of effectively auditing biodiversity, focusing on the most endangered species. In 2013, we guest edited a special issue of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal devoted to Accounting for Biodiversity, and Mike edited the first book on Accounting for Biodiversity in 2014. This has now burgeoned into a mainstream research area in its own right, also leading to the development of the extinction accounting field.
Mike’s contribution to the development of Doctoral Students and Early Career Researchers was significant, many of them now being accounting professors and journal editors. He always collaborated with a wide array of international scholars, leading projects and tirelessly pushing his own and others’ research forward to publication. His leadership organising conferences through BAFA’s FARSIG and the FRBC has provided a forum for international academic colleagues to meet, share ideas and collaborate. He held a visiting professorship at the University of Cagliari in Sardinia, and gave many invited presentations at universities in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Malaysia, Italy, to name but a few.
Being an environmental and biodiversity accounting researcher Mike attended CSEAR conferences and also whilst there loved walking along the beach at St Andrews and birdwatching there. Many academics in accounting have been inspired by his work in the environmental accounting area. He was so admired by those in the CSEAR community and read all the work from academics in CSEAR with great interest. No question that environmental accounting and especially accounting for biodiversity was his life long passion. Mike’s passing at only 70 years of age is a loss to our community. It is with great sadness that have to say goodbye to one of the most committed members of our environmental accounting community but also he leaves a wealth of research to guide future researchers in the area.