NSM Focus | Newly appointed Professor Frank Hartmann: ‘I enjoy studying accounting from different disciplinary perspectives’

Date of news: 25 June 2020

He studied in Rotterdam, completed his PhD in Maastricht, and was first appointed Professor in Amsterdam. In June, Frank Hartmann was appointed Professor of Management Accounting at Radboud University. ‘There are talented researchers from all kinds of disciplines here. For a scientist, it’s a real pleasure.’

“It’s very strange,” says Frank Hartmann (54), “to start a new job in these times. I don’t meet new colleagues at the coffee machine; I can’t shake people’s hands. Normally by September the University would be buzzing with energy, with all the new students. I’ll do my best to make contact, but I have to wait and see what’s possible.”

Fantastic challenge

Hartmann studied Financial Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam and followed a post-doctoral programme in Management Control in Maastricht, where he defended his PhD on budgeting behaviour in 1997, and was already appointed Professor at the University of Amsterdam a year later. For the past fifteen years, Hartmann has worked as a Professor in Rotterdam. “Half of this time I was also active as an administrator, as a member of the Faculty Board and Dean of Executive Education. Last year, I took a sabbatical, having worked for four years to improve the position of executive education [university education for managers in the field, Eds.].”

In Nijmegen, Hartmann plans to proceed with the “traditional Professor’s craft”: teaching, research, and supervising students and PhD candidates. “I will also help expand executive education in accounting and finance, which involves developing new programmes to strengthen the Faculty’s reputation, broadening its network, and bringing people back to the campus who would normally not be here. It’s a fantastic challenge that follows closely on my work in Rotterdam.”

Complex puzzle

Hartmann enjoys taking part in the social debate. He believes universities could play a more active role in this respect. “Not only in presenting scientific facts, but also in influencing the vocabulary of the debate. One of the crucial questions at the moment is: How do we assess a company’s performance in these volatile times? Is it only about profit and shareholder value, or should we look more broadly and include social contribution? These are discussions I want to contribute to.”

In Nijmegen, Hartmann also hopes to work on multidisciplinary collaboration. “I’m very interested in developments in the field of brain science, for example, especially in terms of how financial decisions are made.” This is why Hartmann has been working with the Donders Institute for years. “We investigate the effects of accountability on human behaviour. When you ask people to justify and explain their decisions, do they only start to run harder, or are there also learning effects? And how do these arise in the brain? The study is still in progress and this is a cautious start to the solving of a complex puzzle.”

Unique employer

Hartmann also collaborates with Nijmegen philosophy experts. “Again looking at accountability, I study the difference between scientific explanations of human behaviour – in brain science and elsewhere – and the way in which people explain their own behaviour. Are these two kinds of explanations compatible? Incidentally, Nijmegen philosophy researchers also work in close collaboration with the Donders Institute.”

These types of collaboration opportunities within and beyond management studies make Radboud University a unique employer in Hartmann’s opinion. “There are talented researchers from all kinds of disciplines here. For a scientist, it’s a real pleasure. Accounting is my absolute passion and I love studying it from different disciplinary perspectives.”