Information Systems and Accounting Research Group (ISARG)



The focus of ISARG is researching the communication, use and regulation of digital reporting.  Specific areas of interest include the development of industry standards; control and electronic interchange of data; XBRL; the use of internet technologies in business; Enterprise Resource Planning systems; and the role of technology in taxation.

As a group we aim to publish research related to these topics and engage with business and practitioners to develop and extend our understanding of issues and approaches that may usefully be adopted.


We have a team of active members based both in the Birmingham Business School and at other universities:

Birmingham Business School:

Doctoral Researchers (completed):

  • Rania Mousa
  • Barry Smith
  • Jo-Anne Ryan

Associate members:

  • Professor Alan Lowe, Aston University, UK
  • Indrit Troshani, Adelaide University, Australia
  • Robert Pinsker, Old Dominion University, USA
  • Professor Joanne Locke, Open University

Research projects

Members of the group are together and individually engaging in a wide range of research.

Projects currently in progress include :

Experimental study of non-professional investors’ use of XBRL tagged data (Locke, Lowe and Lymer)

This study builds on the pilot work conducted in the report for the ICAEW  that found that non-professional investors’ were not able to integrate footnote information more effectively using interactive data.   This project seeks to gain further insight into how non-professional investors use digital information in investment decision making.  The research may be extended to include analysts in the future.

European regulatory processes and digital reporting (Locke, Lowe and Lymer)

Following on from the ICAEW report this project involves the researchers in analysing the institutional relationships and developments involved in the development of a digital reporting system for the European single market.

Impact of SEC XBRL filing on European companies Project with Robert/Carsten

As European companies are preparing for SEC listing requirements using XBRL from 2011 this project is monitoring large European companies’ activities as they develop plans to meet this listing obligation.

Visualising digital accounting data 

Using new technologies for corporate reporting allows preparers and users to present and interact with information in different ways. This longitudinal project looks at how new visual presentations of data are developing and how they are used.

Rania  Mousa

The key users of XBRL technology in the UK to date have been the Government departments of HMRC (for tax filings) and Companies House (for company registration and annual filing requirements). This project explores how these organisations undertook their novel technology adoption decisions resulting in the use for XBRL. It is undertaken through case studies and in depth interviews with the key players in both organisations and those directly affected by these developments.

Barry Smith

Since the earliest days of the use of the internet as a corporate reporting tool in the 1990s one of the core claims for the use of these technologies have been that it enhances the democratisation of the reporting process (‘levelling the playing field’ for all investors etc.). This project explores the extent to which current corporate reporting practices can be said to be democratic, and therefore the degree to which the wider use of internet technologies genuinely enhance this, or not.

Jo-Anne Ryan

This project explores how Canadian companies are using the internet as a tool for developing their corporate reporting initiatives. In particular, it provides an institutional theory analysis of one of the largest Canadian companies investigating how plans for, and implementation of , their internet reporting policies were undertaken and applied.

Publications & Activities

Report prepared for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) XRBL – Views of the stakeholders (December 2009) by Christine Helliar, Theresa Dunne (both of Dundee University), Andy Lymer and Rania Mousa

This report details a survey undertaken in the UK seeking the current views of key stakeholders in the XBRL world. These included accountants in business (as preparers of accounting information), external auditors, tax professionals and professional analysts. Surveys were sent to large communities of each of these 4 categories and replies were analysed in detail in this report.

Results demonstrate there is significant variation in understanding of this technology currently in the UK amongst groups that could be supposed to be at the forefront of its development – particularly in light of both the current, and planned near future mandated use of this technology by these user groups.

The support of the ACCA is gratefully acknowledged in funding this study.

Report prepared for the Institute of Chartered Accounting in England and Wales (ICAEW)

Digital reporting options for Europe: A study of interactive data from the perspective of non-professional investors (January 2010) by Joanne Locke, Andrew Lymer and Alan Lowe

This report considers what the likely impact on developments in Europe will be as a result of the mandatory adoption of ‘interactive data’ by the SEC in the United States.  It uses a socio-technical perspective that recognises that technologies need active constituencies to promote and develop them.  It explores the economic, institutional and technological setting of potential developments in digital reporting in Europe and makes twelve recommendations.

The support of the ICAEW’s charitable trust is gratefully acknowledged.  We would also like to thank the participants and software vendors who offered assistance.

The report will be available early in March through the ICAEW’s site.

Journal articles

Rowbottom, N. & Lymer, A. (2010). ‘Exploring the Use and Users of Narrative Reporting in the Online Annual Report’, Journal of Applied Accounting Research, 11/2, 90-108

Rowbottom, N. & Lymer, A. (2009). ‘Exploring the Use of Online Corporate Reporting Information’, Journal of Emerging Technologies in Accounting, 6, 27-44.

Rowbottom, N. & Lymer, A. (2009). Exploring the use of online corporate sustainability information, Accounting Forum 33 p.176-186.

Responses to calls for comment:

The group has also been active in responding to calls for comment from the International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation:

Review of the IASC Foundation’s Constitution Part II, April 2009 (Locke, Rowbottom and Ullathorne)

Call for comment on the Due Process Handbook for XBRL Activities (Locke, Lymer and Rowbottom)

Review of the IASC Foundation’s Constitution Part II: Proposals for enhanced accountability (Rowbottom, Locke and Ullathorne)


The group runs an annual conference on XBRL and Online reporting.  The conferences are designed to bring together academics and practitioners to share knowledge and provide an opportunity for attendees to discuss issues on the day.

The future of XBRL in Europe: Impetus, institutions and interrelationships

Our most recent XBRL conference took the form of a workshop and was run in conjunction with the ICAEW's IT Faculty at Chartered Accountants' Hall In London.  The programme and summary document are available by following the links:


Summary document

We would like to thank the ICAEW IT Faculty for their support.

2nd  XBRL and Online Reporting Seminar

The second conference was run on 13th November 2009; with the theme: Practice and research in XBRL and online reporting: Developing the interface.

Presentation slides by the following speakers may viewed in PDF by clicking below:

Robert Pinsker of Old Dominion University, USA

Alex Ang, Investor Matrix

Jeff Smith, HMRC

Henry Sanford, Black Sun plc

Carsten Felden, TU Bergakademie Freiberg

Holger Obst, IASC Foundation’s XBRL Team

Joanne Locke, University of Birmingham

The feedback from the conference attendees was very positive including: ‘This was one of the best events of its type I have attended’.

Doctoral Researcher


Dr Nick Rowbottom


Phone: +44 (0)121 414 6676