John Roberts obtained his doctorate in from the UMIST in 1984. He subsequently held Senior Research Fellowships at the Department of Accounting and Finance at Manchester University, the Centre For Business Strategy at London Business School, and St. Catherine's College Cambridge, before taking up a lectureship at the newly created Judge Business School in Cambridge in 1991. He has worked at the University of Sydney Business School since 2007.
His qualitative research work spans three main areas of interest; the uses of accounting information in processes of organisational accountability, corporate governance and, in particular, the impact of regulation on the dynamics of board roles and relationships, and the nature of ethics in business. His work on accountability began immediately after his doctorate and applied Giddens' structuration theory to explore the uses of accounting information in creating accountability within organisations. This work resulted in a series of early papers in Accounting, Organizations and Society which continue to be widely cited. It was this work that formed the basis of the second focus of his research - corporate governance and, in particular, qualitative studies of board roles and relationships, and company /fund manager meetings. This work has resulted in several empirical and theoretical publications in Long Range Planning, Human Relations, the British Journal of Management, and Accounting, Organizations and Society as well as a series of more practitioner oriented reports. It also influenced UK corporate governance reform by informing the 2003 Higgs review of the Role and Effectiveness of the Non-Executive Director. His third area of research has been into the nature of ethics in business. An early empirical piece drawing upon the work of Alasdair MacIntyre in the Journal of Management Studies was followed by a number of innovative papers. A special issue of Business Ethics Quarterly included one of the earliest papers to introduce the work of Levinas to the academic business ethics literature, and was followed by a widely cited paper in Organization on corporate social responsibility, and most recently in the Journal of Business Ethics. A related innovation has been theoretical work that draws upon psychoanalytic theory and, in particular, the work of Lacan, also published in Organization. His most recent work has combined these themes in analysing and exploring the global financial crisis including two papers, one on self interest and the other on the limits of transparency in Accounting, Organizations and Society, and a forthcoming paper in Culture and Organisation on the role of pay practices in the crisis.