Professor David Heald

Impact of Research

  • Long before 'Impact' became fashionable in UK higher education, David Heald's research focused on practical problems of policy and implementation and much effort was expended on dissemination. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework gave a weight of 20% to Impact: his Impact case study on public sector accounting change played a significant role in the University of Aberdeen's Business & Management (Unit of Assessment 19) Impact submission coming 2nd out of 101 submissions, only behind the University of Cambridge. Further recognition came in the November 2014 award of Fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS). Illustrative examples of his research impact are provided below.
  • Transparency, both generic and fiscal, has become an integrating concept for much of David Heald's research. His 2006 co-edited book on transparency with Christopher Hood (Oxford) has been extensively reviewed and has been cited in policy documents and in the research literature across several disciplines. This book and his own two chapters score highly on Google Scholar. His 2003 article on fiscal transparency has led to further academic work on the elusiveness of public expenditure transparency, and to directly policy-relevant publications on strengthening fiscal transparency (Handbook edited by IMF staff), and on surmounting obstacles to it (Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency). In November 2006, David Heald had responded to a request from the Fiscal Transparency Code Review Team of the International Monetary Fund to comment on proposed changes to the Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency (approved by the IMF's Executive Board on 8 May 2007). After the shock of the 2008 global financial crisis, he was consulted by the IMF Fiscal Affairs Department on what became the 2014 re-issue.
  • His research on Public-Private Partnerships, both on accounting for them and on value-for-money, has attracted international attention from policymakers as well as from academia. Early work on PPPs (usually known in the United Kingdom as the Private Finance Initiative) and infrastructure accounting was extensively cited in the OECD's June 2000 Economic Survey of the United Kingdom. Similarly in the OECD's 2001 Managing Public Expenditure: A Reference Book for Transition Countries, published by the SIGMA Programme geared to the eastward extension of the European Union. His 2003 analysis of PPP accounting and value-for-money has been cited in IMF policy documents on public investment and fiscal risk. His proposal that the public sector client should disclose the private sector partner's balance sheet treatment was adopted in the IMF's Economic Issues 40 (2007, page 15). This has yet to happen, but the 2003 journal article is his most cited article on Google Scholar. He has contributed to meetings of the OECD's Senior Budget Officials Network of Senior Public-Private Partnership Officials. He has frequently given oral and written evidence on this topic to the Treasury Committee of the UK House of Commons, most recently on 5 March 2013. The video appears here.
  • David Heald's role from 1989 to 2010 as specialist adviser on public expenditure and government accounting to the Treasury Committee of the UK House of Commons meant that he was heavily involved in Resource Accounting and Budgeting (the implementation of accruals accounting and budgeting in UK central government), a project which began in November 1993. He has strongly supported the idea of Whole of Government Accounts, some of his writing being included in the Treasury's (1998) Scoping Study. Before and after the 2009 publication of the first UK WGA, his papers on the desirable scope of accounting consolidation, the process of WGA preparation and opportunities for WGA use contributed to policy development and public understanding.
  • From 1 August 2004 to 31 July 2009, he was a member of the Financial Reporting Advisory Board, having been nominated as an independent economist by the Head of the Government Economic Service. Minutes of meetings since February 2005 are available here. In a personal capacity, he sometimes responds to consultations launched by accounting regulators. For example, he submitted comments to the International Accounting Standards Board's 2006 consultation on the IASB/FASB Conceptual Framework project. Also, he submitted comments to the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board's 2008 consultation on accounting for service concession agreements (ie PFIs or PPPs). As part of the internationalisation of his research, he is currently researching possible European Public Sector Accounting Standards (EPSAS) and the increasing use of government guarantees.
  • Ever since his 1983 book, Public Expenditure: Its Defence and Reform (Martin Robertson, Oxford), David Heald has combined interest in the philosophical and political bases of public expenditure provision and in technical matters of accounting, measurement and planning. Over time the technical came to dominate his published work. In order to redress the balance, he has published a book chapter on 'Rethinking public expenditure from a social democratic perspective' (in The Crisis of Social Democracy in Europe, edited by Michael Keating and David McCrone, Edinburgh University Press, 2013). He has co-edited a book on 'fiscal squeeze' with Christopher Hood (Oxford) and Rozana Himaz (Oxford Brookes), When the Party is Over: the Politics of Fiscal Squeeze in Perspective (Proceedings of the British Academy 197, Oxford University Press) which has three thematic chapters written by the editors and nine historical country case studies written by country experts.
  • David Heald's research on public audit and the governance of public bodies was prompted by his involvement in practice, particularly his role as specialist adviser to The Public Accounts Commission of the UK House of Commons (2004-09) and as a member of the Technical Advisory Group to the Audit Commission (2004-10). He resigned the former role so that he could publicly oppose the corporatisation of the National Audit Office, including by means of academic and practitioner articles. The sudden abolition of the Audit Commission by the incoming Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition (2010-15) led to him giving evidence against the proposed reforms to the Westminster Parliament's Communities and Local Government Committee and Draft Local Audit ad hoc Committee. He later gave evidence on parallel proposals for the Wales Audit Office. His research on public audit has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust. His related work on the governance of public bodies, together with Dr David Steel (Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen Business School), was funded by a British Academy small grant. Five Knowledge Exchange and Transfer workshops, held in the summer of 2013, two in Edinburgh and three in London, attracted high-level participants and were funded by a KETF grant from the University of Aberdeen. A sixth event was held at Ulster Business School on 14 January 2014, arranged by the Chairs Forum and the Chief Executives Forum. An academic article on Chair-Chief Executive relationships was published in July 2015.