Preparing for serendipity: An illustrative analysis of participation in the field

Christopher S. Chapman, Asako Kimura, Norio Sawabe, Hiroyuki Selmes-Suzuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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This paper aims to explore how researchers in general, and field researchers in particular, might respond to systems of governance of the researchers' activity in ways that can support rather than distort the quality of the research.

We draw upon literature on serendipity to develop a framework for engaging with the positive and negative potentials of systems of governance. We ground our analysis in discussion of participation in the field comprising two parts: first, the examination of our own activities and second, the accounts of participation found in two career-autobiographical interviews with emeritus professors of management accounting from Japan.

We highlight the potential for a productive tension between two contrasting perspectives that researchers might take on governance of their activity. A contractual perspective sees the value of targets and detailed pre-planning. A reflexive perspective sees the value of exploring the unexpected and considering many alternatives. We offer a framework for considering serendipity and the conditions that facilitate serendipity to help researchers maintain a productive tension between these perspectives.

Research limitations/implications
We build upon retrospective accounts of two successful individuals whose careers evolved in a specific context. The intention is not to set out what might be generally achievable in a research career, nor to propose specific lines of action or planning in relation to specific systems of governance, since these vary across countries and over time. Rather, the paper draws on these materials to illuminate the more general challenge of preparing for serendipity in a way that goes beyond simple opportunism.

We analyse how researchers' mindfulness of serendipity and the nature of contexts that facilitate serendipity can encourage a productive tension between contractual and reflexive perspectives on governance of academic activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)816-839
Number of pages24
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number3
Early online date7 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Governance of Academic Activity
  • Field Research
  • Participation
  • Serendipity


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