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Professor Mike Jones, 1953-2023

Professor Mike Jones

30 November 2023

Emeritus Professor Mike Jones died in September. His colleagues Professor Mark Clatworthy and Professor Stuart Cooper offer this remembrance to a pathfinder in many areas of accounting research who served as Professor of Accounting from 2009 to 2020 and as Head of Department of Accounting and Finance from 2009 to 2013.

Mike Jones was a pioneer in several important areas of accounting research. He investigated the potential of accounting for biodiversity many years before they were recognised by the Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity. He also set the agenda for significant bodies of future work by examining various forms of non-financial communication, such as accounting narratives and the use and abuse of graphs in corporate annual reports.

Mike was born in Hereford on 3 June 1953. After developing a passion for history in his school days in Hereford, he went on to study it at Magdalen College, Oxford. He never lost his interest in history, subsequently combining it with his knowledge for, and interest in, accounting. This area alone resulted in many publications, including some relating to the history of accounting systems in Magdalen College itself.

After qualifying as a chartered accountant with Coopers and Lybrand (a predecessor of PwC), Mike began teaching accounting at Hereford Technical College. Upon moving to University of Portsmouth, he formed a number of very productive research collaborations, most notably with Vivien Beattie (then of the University of Southampton), with whom he studied how companies relied heavily on graphs for communicating their financial position and performance, and how they often distorted them to present a more favourable impression.

Mike was brilliant at devising research agendas that aligned to his interests outside work. His research on accounting for biodiversity stemmed from his spending a great deal of time walking in natural surroundings, such as at the Kenfig National Nature Reserve. Apart from leading to many enjoyable hours bird-spotting, these walks led to an early appreciation of the possibilities of accounting to record and arrest species decline.

It is difficult to summarise Mike’s total research output, except to say he was especially prolific in his discipline. He wrote numerous books and well over 100 articles. But this productivity did not come at the expense of contribution to the wider community. After leaving Portsmouth in 1992 Mike joined Cardiff University, where he became Professor of Financial Reporting in 1996. At that time, along with Howard Mellett, he established the Financial Reporting and Business Communication (FRBC) Research Unit, and subsequently the British Accounting Association Special Interest Group on Financial Reporting (FARSIG). Both institutions and associated events were internationally renowned for their unique balance of conviviality and accounting scholarship and for spanning the academic and professional accounting communities. Many a co-authorship owes its existence to meetings and discussions at these events.

When he arrived at the University of Bristol in 2009, Mike immediately became Head of the (then) Department of Accounting and Finance in the School of Economics, Finance and Management, which was growing very quickly. He brought both FRBC and FARSIG with him, as well as extensive editorial experience (he and Howard Mellett co-edited the British Accounting Review for several years). The FRBC is still running more than 25 years after its formation, and FARSIG continues to facilitate important interactions between accounting academics, professionals and regulators. Both continue to attract some of the most influential accounting thinkers in the world. Mike was awarded the British Accounting and Finance Association Distinguished Academic Award in 2021.

It is fair to say that while Mike appreciated what he often referred to as 'sartorial elegance', he was not famous for being smartly dressed himself. At Cardiff University, he once attended a School Research Committee meeting (which was chaired by the always immaculate Richard Whipp) with a jumper on that looked fine from the front, but from the back, less so: he was wearing his 'v-neck' back to front. He also once turned up for a lecture with two ties on, having put one on in the house and another taken from the front seat of his car (which was already half done up and which he placed over his head not remembering that he already had one on).

In addition to his prolific publication record, his extensive departmental and editorial responsibilities and his major roles in organising excellent conferences, Mike was a tremendously supportive mentor to many colleagues and students. He will be sadly missed by students and colleagues at Bristol and in the academic accounting community around the world. Our thoughts are with his friend and ex-wife Christine, and his daughter Katherine.

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