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Accounting Firms Increasingly Seeking Experts With Scientific Understanding

How to find key professionals who can provide the insight you need.

June 16, 2008
Sponsored by ChemInsight®

Imagine this scenario: Your firm has been tasked with unraveling accounting irregularities at a major chemical manufacturing company. As you go through the books, you realize that to truly understand how the company is allocating costs in R&D and operations, you need to understand the differences between two synthetic polymers the company has developed and the financial impact they have had. Where do you turn for insight?

Following the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, many forensic accountants and consulting firms have had to change the way they approach engagements with clients. This change is due in part to the fact that SOX effectively creates firewalls between the services that auditing and accounting organizations may provide their clients and the “expert opinions” on business matters that consulting firms provide. In a similar development, in cases of fraud investigation, it is increasingly common to bring in subject matter experts to objectively explain technical and scientific issues.

As a result of these changes, accounting and other professional services firms are increasingly seeking experts for insights into technologies, processes and other areas requiring detailed scientific understanding.

Know Your Resources

What types of resources are available for finding such insight and expertise? There are a number of possible sources and each can play a valuable role.

Personal Networks. You may already know a person who can provide the technical expertise your firm needs. Possible sources include business contacts, alumni from your own institution and others.

Expert Directory Services. Available from many sources, these directories are often targeted at certain professional fields such as legal, business, technical, etc. Directories are available in several media, including print, CD-ROM and online. Typically, the expert will pay a listing fee to display their profile, which generally includes contact information, education, experience and skills. Access to the directory is often free to firms and individuals seeking a consultant.

Expert Matching Services. When an organization needs an expert in a short time frame or when a specialized and complicated search is involved, an expert matching service can be beneficial. There are a variety of these fee-based matching services available, often having specific areas of scientific or technical focus.

One example is the ChemInsight® scientific expert matching service (http://www.ChemInsight.org/cpa). ChemInsight was launched by the American Chemical Society (ACS), a not-for-profit and the world’s largest scientific society, in response to growing demand.

ACS members include scientists, academics and other professionals with expertise in chemistry, materials, life sciences, the environment, toxicology and additional concentrations. Many of these experts have retired, but want to remain engaged in the sciences; ChemInsight gives them an avenue for applying their knowledge and expertise to solve challenging problems as independent consultants.

ACS offers the ChemInsight program as a fee-based scientific expert matching service for connecting scientists with professional service and consulting firms. With their access to scientific professionals, papers and other proprietary resources, ChemInsight staff can save firms valuable time finding the ideal subject matter expert for a given topic.

Alternatively, ChemInsight offers its directory in print and on its website free of charge. Users can specify search criteria to find experts on a given topic, which they then contact to negotiate the specifics of consulting relationships.

Make Sure Your Team Has the Right Players

In the post-Sarbanes-Oxley world, it’s critical to draw clear lines between accounting and auditing and consulting — making the use of external subject matter experts a sound strategy. Likewise, in cases involving expert testimony, having authoritative sources of scientific knowledge can be critical to success.

Whether you find these experts through your own network, an expert directory or search service, the key is finding the person or persons who are best able to provide the insight and context you need.

For more information, visit ChemInsightŪ.