The process of starting a business – tracking entrepreneurs’ experiences

Supervisor

Dr Anna Jenkins

Project duration

10 weeks.

Description

This project involves coding interviews with entrepreneurs about their startup experiences and then developing case summaries of their experiences.

The entrepreneurs are all early stages of launching their ventures and the interviews track their progress over a three year period.

The successful candidate would code the interviews, which involves identifying themes within the interviews, and assign-defined codes to different sections of the interview transcripts.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

Students can expect to gain skills in qualitative methods as part of the project including how to code and summarize interview data. Training in Nvivo is also provided as well an thorough mentoring throughout the project on how to code and write findings from qualitative data.

On conclusion of the project case summaries of the entrepreneurs’ experiences is expected.

Suitable for

This project is suitable for students who are interested in startups and developing skills in qualitative methods. It is particularly suitable for students who are interested in pursuing an honours degree or a research component in a Master Degree as the project provides training in research methods.

Further information

Interested applicants should contact Dr Anna Jenkins (a.jenkins@business.uq.edu.au).

 

Understanding the business of charity

Supervisor

Dr Cassandra Chapman

Project duration

6 weeks.

Description

The purpose of this project is to systematically review the published literature on nonprofits and charitable giving across a broad-range of high-impact business journals, especially related to management, marketing, consumer behavior, and organisation studies.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

The objective is to create a database of both empirical and theoretical articles that relate to questions of donor psychology, charitable decision-making, trust, and ethics within nonprofit contexts.

Scholars will be guided by the project supervisor who will mentor the students to ensure they:

  • Learn how to run targeting literature searches
  • Learn how to effectively summarise diverse literatures for later reference
  • Become proficient in EndNote for citation management
  • Develop subject-matter expertise in nonprofit studies and charitable giving
  • Gain a broad understanding of the quality and format of articles published in top-tier business journals

Suitable for

This research project would suit an Honours or Masters student who is interested in pursuing a PhD in a business discipline and wants to learn how to effectively summarise literature without getting overwhelmed.  Students with an interest in consumer psychology, prosocial behavior, or nonprofit studies would especially benefit.

An excellent command of written English will be required. 

Further information

Interested applicants should contact Cassandra (c.chapman@business.uq.edu.au).

Climate Change Risk Exposure: Australian Firms’ Disclosures and their Informativeness to Investors’ Assessment of Firm Risk

Supervisors

Associate Professor Kath Herbohn (with Professor Peter Clarkson and Dr Mark Wallis)

Project duration

8-10 weeks. Specifically, it is expected run from November 2019 (after exams finish) to mid-February 2020.

Description

Aim
To investigate: 
(a) how Australian listed firms are disclosing their exposure to climate-related risk; and 
(b) the extent to which these disclosures inform investors’ assessment of firm risk.

Background
Climate change risk is ‘any corporate risk related to climate change or the use of fossil fuels’ (Hoffmann and Busch, 2008, p. 514). This risk comprises three separate but related components – regulatory, physical and business risks – arising from potential restrictions on managers’ ability to conduct business due to the uncertain impact of climate change and the use of fossil fuels on the input and output sides of a firm’s value chain (Labatt and White, 2007; Hoffman and Busch, 2008). In the light of its complexity and prima facie longer-term horizon, climate change risk is often improperly understood by investors. As a result, there has been much rhetoric around the need for firms to adequately disclose their exposure to climate change risk to increase transparency, reduce information asymmetry and thus support informed, efficient capital allocation decisions.

A key tipping point in the debate on adequate disclosure of climate risk in Australia was the 2017 lawsuit brought by the advocacy group Environmental Justice Australia on behalf of two long-standing investors against the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The bank was sued for inadequate disclosure of investment risks associated with climate change in its 2016 Annual Report. Following closely, Australian regulators such as the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the Australia Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) have explicitly highlighted the legal risk to company directors of failing to consider material climate change risks. Referring to a 2016 legal opinion by Noel Hutley SC and Sebastien Hartford-Davis (commissioned by the Centre for Policy Development (CPD) and the Future Business Council), which suggests that company directors could be held personally liable for breaching their statutory duty of care if they failed to consider the impact of climate change, ASIC Commissioner, Mr Price, has indicated a willingness to prosecute directors for failing to adequately communicate climate risk exposure (Yeates, 2018). 

At present, climate change risk disclosures are voluntary and so their form and content are determined by managerial discretion in applying disclosure guidelines such as the recommendations of the G20's Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) (2017). This degree of managerial discretion likely results in two scenarios: (i) the use discretionary disclosures to provide incremental information to reduce the information asymmetry around firms’ climate change risk exposure; or (ii) the strategic use of self-serving bias to manage impressions of and/or obfuscate their firms’ climate change risk exposure via manipulation of textual features of the disclosures (e.g. readability, tone, specificity). The first aim of our project is to investigate how managers are disclosing their firm’s climate change risk exposure. We consider the content of the disclosures, as well as the use of textual features of the disclosures to identify either disclosures that are incrementally informative or subject to strategic self-serving biases. 

An additional consideration in our project is the considerable rhetoric around the benefits expected to flow from adequate disclosures of climate change risk exposure. To illustrate, the G20’s TCFD’s Report (2017) observes that there is a need for ‘better information to support informed investment, lending, and insurance underwriting decisions and improve understanding and analysis of climate-related risks and opportunities’ (FSB, 2017, p. iii). The second aim of our project is to investigate the benefits of climate change risk disclosures, and more specifically, whether in fact, investors’ assessment of a firm’s risk changes as a result of disclosures on the firm’s climate change risk exposure. As part of this investigation, we consider whether investors are able to “see through” any strategic impressions management likely used by managers. 

Method/Approach
(1) Identification of climate change risk exposed firms listed on the Australia Securities Exchange (ASX).
Develop a proxy for a firm’s climate change risk exposure based on the types of characteristics listed below. 

Energy-related risks

  • High carbon emitters (NGER reporters)
  • Producers of fossil fuels
  • Heavy users of fossil fuels

Financing-related risks 

  • Financial risks relating to borrowers’ exposure to climate change, which could lead to an increased risk of default (direct risk)
  • Reputational risk to lender (indirect)

Business is exposed to extreme weather conditions

  • Vulnerable to droughts, flooding either directly through its products/services or indirectly with variability in supply chain

Other indicators

  • Climate change-related asset impairments announced
  • Change in consumer tastes and/investors’ expectations
  • Firm previously targeted at AGM via hostile, climate change-related resolutions.

(2) Hand-collection of climate change risk related disclosures.

  • Identify a random, stratified sample of ASX-listed firms representing all ex-ante types of climate risk exposure (from step (1) above). 
  • Using established reporting guidelines (e.g. G20 TCFD Recommendations (2017)) to identify the content of climate change risk disclosures.
  • Assess textual features of the disclosures to distinguish informative disclosures from those characterised by a strategic self-serving bias.

(3) Investigate association between investors’ assessment of firm risk with climate change risk disclosures from (2) above

Examine the association between risk measures and the disclosure measured in step (2) above. We consider two variables:

  • firm risk (return volatility) measured as the standard deviation of daily stock returns over 12 months following disclosure of climate related risk exposure (Bova et al., 2015); and
  • information asymmetry (mean bid-ask spread) measured as the closing bid-ask spread scaled by the midpoint of bid and ask prices averaged over the 60 trading days ending at the preceding fiscal period (Kerr and Ozel, 2015).

References:
Bova, F., Kolev, K., Thomas, J.K. and Zhang, X.F. 2015. ‘Non-executive ownership and corporate risk’, The Accounting Review, 90(1), pp. 2057-77.
Hoffmann, V. H. and Busch, T. 2008. ‘Corporate carbon performance indicators.’ Journal of Industrial Ecology, 12(4), 505-520.
Kerr, J. and Ozel, N.B. 2015. ‘Earnings announcements, information asymmetry and timing of debt offerings’. The Accounting Review, 90(6), pp. 2375-3410. 
Labatt, S. and White, R. R. 2007. ‘Carbon finance: The financial implications of climate change.’ Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Financial Stability Board (FSB). 2017. ‘Final Report: Recommendations of the Task Force of Climate Disclosures’, Basel: Switzerland. 
Yeates, C. 2018. ‘ASIC warns on climate risk as heat turns on directors’. The Sydney Morning Herald. 19 June <https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/asic-warns-on-climate-risk-as-heat-turns-on-directors-20180618-p4zm7j.html>

Expected outcomes and deliverables

The applicant will gain skills in data collection, as well as data management. Specifically, the following data will be collected: share price data (SIRCA database or Datastream); climate change disclosures and financial variables (DatAnalysis database – annual reports, sustainability reports and other public documents). 

The applicant will also be able to develop skills in content analysis of public documents to identify textual features. The types of software used include StyleWriter, LIWC and DICTION.  

Additionally, the applicant will participate in the development of a research project from an initial idea through to the start of a working paper.    

Suitable for

This project is open to applications from students with a background in Commerce or Economics (e.g. undergraduate enrolled in Bachelor of Commerce; or a postgraduate enrolled in a Masters of Commerce). The applicant should have a natural curiosity about the economic consequences of different types of voluntary disclosures made by business; as well as a good command of English since there is data collection and analysis required around public disclosures. 

Further information

If you would like additional information on this project, please contact Kath Herbohn (k.herbohn@business.uq.edu.au).

Inquiries prior to submitting an application are encouraged.

Examination of how leaders respond to allegations of trust breach

Supervisor

Professor Nicole Gillespie

Project duration

6-10 weeks. 

Description

This summer scholarship project focuses on analysing and reporting data and assisting with publications from a large research project examining how leaders respond to allegations of trust breach.  

Leaders, whether in the corporate, political, or non-profit sector, must earn and maintain the trust of their followers if they are to be effective and retain their leadership positions.
Unfortunately, leaders are very often accused (whether justifiably or not) of violating their followers’ and other stakeholders’ trust. Recent evidence (Edelman, 2014) suggests that, worldwide, less than 1/3 of the informed public believes that government and business leaders can be trusted to make ethical and moral decisions and tell the truth. Clearly, leaders need insights into how to build and maintain trust and how to respond to alleged trust violations. 
The large majority of research on trust repair to date has been conducted in laboratory experiments.  While such methods have merits, they are limited in generalizability and ecological validity, and may not represent the reality and complexity of how leaders respond to allegations in the real world. 

In this project, we focus on three key questions: 

  1. How do leaders respond to public allegations of a trust violation? 
  2. What factors influence how a leader responds to a public allegation?
  3. How does the type of response the leader uses (e.g. denial, apology, justification etc.) influence the leader’s future success (e.g. election outcome)

The project draws on a unique field study comprising qualitative coding and analysis of news reports, websites, and official investigation reports of 478 British Members of Parliament (MPs) accused of misusing their Parliamentary allowance. This is an ideal dataset because it is a defined population of several hundred leaders, all accused of a similar violation within a similar time period and context, and with details of the allegations and responses all a matter of public record and thus amenable to systematic study.

The publications from this project will contribute to the research literatures on trust repair (e.g., Kramer & Lewicki, 2010) and impression management (e.g., Bolino et al., 2008).

Expected outcomes and deliverables

Scholars will be expected to work as part of a small research team to complete data collection, data analysis and reporting, literature reviewing and write up for publication, as per the requirements of the project at the time of the summer scholarship, combined with consideration of the scholars skill sets and interests.

Scholars will gain skills in data collection (e.g. from media articles and investigation reports), qualitative and/or quantitative data analysis and reporting, literature reviewing, writing and/or presenting for publication, and working as part of a research team.

Suitable for

This project is open to applications from students with a background in psychology, political science, sociology, business studies, and/or organizational behaviour or organizational psychology. Applicants are welcome from third or fourth year students. 

Further information

If applicants would like to discuss the project, they are welcome to email Nicole at n.gillespie1@uq.edu.au.

A quantitative study of the cost-benefit analysis of open-plan offices in higher education environment: Study 2

Supervisor

Associate Professor Remi Ayoko in Management, University of Queensland Business School (UQBS). 

Project duration

This is a continuation of the 2018 summer research program on open-plan office (OPO). An estimate of 8-10 weeks for data collection and data analysis and possible write-up.

Description

Project Overview and Significance of Study

The 2018 summer program focused on the qualitative aspects (Study 1) of the cost and benefit analysis of OPO in high education. It allows us to review more recent literature in OPO, collect qualitative data (interviews) and secure more potential participating organizations in the quantitative aspects in Study 2.

Altogether in this research (Study 2), we maintain the focus in the area of Physical Work Environment (PWE) (Ayoko & Ashkanasy (Eds), 2019; Ayoko, Ashkanasy, & Jehn, 2014; Ashkanasy, Ayoko & Jehn, 2014) and investigate the employees’ work environment (e.g. open-plan offices) where continual productivity, employee-wellbeing and engagement are critical. This is a crucial economical imperative in Australia because designing and redesigning the work environment constitutes a significant proportion of organisational financial overheads. For example, Australia spends about AU$3.6 billion per annum on redesigning and reconstructing the physical environment of work (FMA, 2002). Notwithstanding this huge investment, the design and allocation of space is an unacknowledged and expensive unmanaged risk for many organizations (Davis, Leach, & Clegg, 2011). In this regard, little research has assessed the success of these investments in terms of cost/benefit analysis and especially in higher education environment.

So far, scholarly findings on open-plan office are mixed. For example, empirical studies suggest that open-plan office promotes communication between employees (Kim & de Dear, 2013) while others demonstrate that open plan offices are linked with reduced employee satisfaction, a loss of privacy, and increased cognitive workload (De Croon, Sluiter, Kuijer, & Frings-Dresen, 2005). These findings are paradoxical (Ayoko, Ashkanasy & Jehn, 2014) and warrant further research.

As previously established, the 2018 summer research program assisted us in collecting interviews data from a few universities in Australia (Study 1) on the cost and benefits of open plan offices.

In the 2019 summer research program, we move the research on the cost and benefit of OPO forward by doing the following:

  1.  developing surveys and collecting quantitative data (Study 2).
  2.  clean and analyse the quantitative data (Study 2).
  3. collect more interview data from employees (than facility managers) to enrich the previous data in Study 1
  4. continue to transcribe the interview data from Study 1.

Aims and research questions

Generally, the project aims at identifying the readily quantifiable and non-quantifiable costs and benefits of the open plan offices in higher education environment. The non-market impacts are considered. These non-market impacts of costs and benefits include environmental externalities (e.g. increased pollution) and social externalities (e.g. social cohesion and collaboration). So far (i.e. in Study 1), we have collected data in form of metrics on important variables in the open-plan offices such as building, furniture and internal décor. Additionally, the project aims to further categorise variables that cannot be assigned with monetary values through a qualitative description of the impact of the costs and likely benefits of the open-plan offices in higher education.

The two specific Research Questions are:

  1. what are the costs and benefits of adopting open-plan offices for employees in higher education environment and
  2. how do we minimise the costs and maximise the benefits arising from adopting the open-plan office in higher education institutions? A deeper understanding of the costs and benefits of adopting open-plan offices and their impact on employee productivity and wellbeing should provide policy makers, architects and space designers with information to make a quality decision about the adoption of open-plan offices and what type of open plan offices might be suitable for increased productivity for academics and administrative staff in higher education. By studying the above named variables, I aim to contribute to the resolution of the paradoxical role of the open-plan office on productivity and wellbeing.

Two of our initial studies in this area suggests that there is much rhetoric around the open plan office (Ayoko, Ashkanasy, Waddell, 2014, Ayoko, Ashkanasy & Kelly, 2019) and that employees often draw differing meanings from the open-plan offices given the office configurations (Tann & Ayoko, 2019). The current study will be a follow-up on the previous studies not only to disentangle the paradoxical nature of the construct of open-plan office but also to unpack the costs and benefits (through cost-benefit analysis) of the open-plan office in the context of higher education.

Outcomes of the current research should expose quantitatively and qualitatively the costs benefits of open plan offices in higher education. This should, in turn, assist Australian higher education managers and leaders to have the needed information on which to make a quality decision on the adoption of open-plan office in higher education. Altogether, outcomes of the current study should also inform organisational policies on spatial allocation at work while the findings should inform architects and designs about best practice designs that may promote productivity and employee wellbeing.

Approach & methodology

Researchers have often employed quantitative approach to the study of open-plan offices (Ayoko et al., 2014). The current study departs from this practice by employing a mixed-method approach(quantitative and qualitative-case study) to answer the research questions. In particular, the project will be conducted in two studies (Study 1- qualitative and Study 2, quantitative) in examining the costs and benefits associated with open-plan environment in higher education. The 2019 summer research will focus more specifically on the quantitative aspects of this research (Study 2). Since the 19th Century, cost-benefit analysis has been used by the US government agencies in environmental management (Hanley & Spash, 1993) and since the 1960s, this approach has been extend to “human beings” and “physical investment programs” (Guess & Farnham, 2000).

Sample: For study 1, we have already conducted interviews from 10 facility managers and in various universities across Australia where open-plan offices for academics are now been trialled. In 2019, we plan to interview 25-30 employees who have worked in open-plan offices in the last 6 months in higher education. We were previously granted with access to 2 buildings that hosts employees from UQ where employees have recently moved or just about moving to open-plan offices. Case studies have been documented as useful for cost-benefit analysis (Farrow & Shapiro, 2009).Also, in 2019, we will collect quantitative data using Qualtrics platform from200 or more staff across universities in Australia and New Zealand on variables that carry monetary and non-monetary values. In particular, wewill prepare, distribute and collect data on variables such as: Monetary and social benefits, monetary and social cost, employee productivity and wellbeing, types of open plan offices.

Data Analysis: The qualitative data collected is being analysed using NVIVO software. The qualitative approach is providing a deeper insight into the experience of the workers in open plan offices and the possible cost and benefits of such offices. For the quantitative analysis, we plan to examine the connection between variables (Study 2). Finally, we plan to use a decision support tool (e.g. Decision tree, simulation or scenario analysis).

An ethics application for our preliminary research in this area has already been approved but we will ask for an extension.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

By participating in the project, scholars can expect to gain/learn skills related to:

  • Literature Review – e.g. of recent literature in the area of open-plan office, physical environment of work and cost-benefit analysis studies
  • Development of survey questions for a case study
  • Data collection
  • Quantitative analyses of data
  • Opportunity to be involved in drafting and collaborating on a paper for presentation and publication

Outcomes and Deliverables

  1. Succinct review of recent literature in open-plan office, physical environment of work and cost benefit analysis especially specific to higher education
  2. In-depth interview questions for data collection using a case approach
  3. Data collection from participants. Gatekeepers approval to collect data has been obtained from the 6 universities across the Tasman.
  4. Contributions to data analysis and write up of results targeting a quality conference and or journal publication. We are presenting a short paper on our preliminary results at the EGOS 2019 conference in Edinburgh, UK).

Suitable for

This project is open to application from UQ Students only such as Honours, Masters by coursework students with a background in Economics/Finance, Organization Behaviour or Psychology. Applicants must also have some familiarity with qualitative approach to data collection and analysis and software for cost benefit analysis.

Further information

Contact supervisor on r.ayoko@business.uq.edu.au for more clarifications if need be.

“Sustainability Discourse” in the Australian Performing Arts sector

Supervisor

Kate Power.

Project duration

This is a 10-week project, which will run between December 2019 and February 2020 (with a break over Christmas – New Year).  The Summer Scholar for this project is expected to work approximately 20 hours per week (as negotiated with the Supervisor).

Description

This study seeks to understand what “sustainability” means for the Australian performing arts sector, by analysing the language used in

  1. Annual Reports produced by the Australia Council for the Arts and various Australian performing arts companies, and
  2. interviews with representatives of performing arts companies.

A corpus (i.e., collection) of Annual Reports has already been compiled; interviews are currently being conducted and transcribed.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

The Summer Research Scholar will gain experience coding and analysing qualitative data, using NVIVO (i.e., a commonly-used qualitative analytic software program).

As part of the project, s/he will be expected to

  1. be (or quickly become) operationally familiar with NVIVO; and
  2.  code / analyse all Annual Reports, as directed by the chief investigator.

Suitable for

This project is open to applications from UQ-enrolled students with a background in Linguistics, Communications, Journalism, and/or Business. 

The successful applicant must have excellent time management, record-keeping, computer (preferably NVIVO) and communication skills. A genuine interest in discourse analysis, cultural sustainability, and/or the arts will be a definite advantage.

Further information

Interested applicants should contact Kate Power at k.power@business.uq.edu.au.

The role of small wins in capability development for sustainability

Supervisor

Dr Belinda Wade

Project duration

10 weeks.

Description

This research project will examine the role of small successful investments in projects related to sustainability in creating organisational capabilities leading to more significant organisational change.  The project will examine the cognitive and capability related change that occurs through small wins researching the hypothesis that small wins shape the cognitive framing and dynamic capabilities applied in decision making to facilitate increased investment for sustainability. The project will incorporate a background academic literature review on small wins and documentary analysis/interviews of a single case.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

The scholar will gain skills in the systematic review of literature; data collection through a qualitative case study. There will be opportunities to generate publications through this research.

Suitable for

This project is open to applications from Masters level business students with a background in sustainability. UQ enrolled students only.

Organisational legitimacy and the sustainable development goals

Supervisor

Dr Cristyn Meath

Project duration

The project will run for 10 weeks between mid-November and mid-February.

Description

The United Nations have developed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide global action, aiming to create a more sustainable future. The SDGs include seventeen interconnected goals, each supported by a number of targets reflecting critical challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change, peace and justice amongst others. In contrast to the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which targeted governments and aid groups, the SDGs have been developed with collaboration from many businesses and acknowledge the need for business to contribute in order to achieve the goals.

This project seeks to understand empirically how the introduction of the SDGs influences the expectations of an organisation’s environment (i.e., sustainable expectations), and how organisations in turn are seeking to position themselves in order to gain legitimacy from the external environment (i.e., internal/external sustainable orientation).

Expected outcomes and deliverables

Scholars may gain skills in the systematic collection and organisation of literature and data, data analysis or preparing a literature review. Students will be expected to work with the supervisors of the project to deliver work of a high standard in a timely manner. Students will learn the foundations of undertaking high quality research which can be applied in courses requiring the completion of a research thesis or a PhD.

Suitable for

The supervisors are looking for applicants studying one or more of the following fields; sustainability, marketing or strategy at a Masters level.

Further information

For further information please contact Dr Cristyn Meath on c.meath@business.uq.edu.au