At the frontier of performance measurement

Research unveils how accounting can affect our workplaces, institutions and lives

Date published: 2012-01-25 12:00:00 PM

"The first thing I did as auditor general was launch an independent review of our business practices. This is the first time a province will ‘audit’ its auditor general, and is a direct, real-world result of Dr. Cooper’s research."
—Merwan Saher, Auditor General of Alberta

How do you measure success? With the help of SSHRC funding, David Cooper has spent the past 20 years studying how multinational corporations, governments and some of the top law and accounting firms in the world develop, implement and use performance measurement systems.

His research is interdisciplinary, drawing on sociology, political science and social theory to understand a wide range of performance measurement and management issues. As a result of this approach, Cooper is now recognized internationally as a trailblazer in a new field of research that focuses on the organizational and social context of accounting.

Trained as an accountant, Cooper is unafraid to delve into the technical details of how the numbers get crunched. Yet, his research goes far beyond the stereotype of the typical “bean counter” to unveil how accounting can fundamentally affect our lives, our workplaces, and our economic and social institutions. It’s a unique approach to accounting research and one that’s allowed him to provide expert analysis to the more than 60 organizations he’s examined over the years.

Cooper has presented his research to audiences in the UK, Spain, Italy, Turkey, France, Denmark, Sweden, Australia and Japan. In 2010, he was featured in a 10-part BBC Radio documentary on the history of accounting.