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Data Structure

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An Evaluation of the Current State and Future of XBRL and Interactive Data for Investors and Analysts

Since the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission’s 2009 mandate that portions of 10Ks and 10Qs be submitted in a digitized format known as eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), issuers and others have questioned the usefulness of the resulting data now available. As early promoters of “interactive data,” Columbia Business School’s Center for Excellence in Accounting and Security Analysis (CEASA) undertook a review of the state of XBRL and interactive data with a focus on their utility for security analysis. This project involved interviews with representatives of the various stakeholders (i.e., preparers, regulators, analysts and investors, XBRL developers, data aggregators, and XBRL filing and consumption tool vendors), and an in-depth discussion with and survey of investors and analysts. The survey and interview questions, and our conclusions, were organized around the original vision for interactive data—i.e., that data in this format would provide incrementally more relevant, timely, and reliable information to more end users, who could then manipulate and organize the data according to their own purposes at a lower cost. 

This paper investigates the usefulness of the resulting data that were available at the time of publication. In our view, XBRL has succeeded in so far as the objective of providing users with free, interactively-available numerical data from portions of published financial statements and footnotes, as soon as they are filed with the SEC. Most of the analysts and investors we spoke with are interested in and tried to use the footnote data that are XBRL-tagged. However, this access has not translated into ongoing current use by investors and analysts for many reasons which the report articulates in more detail. With this in mind, we provide our general conclusions and make some recommendations.


XBRL and Interactive Data Roundtable

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CEASA co-founder, Stephen Penman, releases new Occasional Paper, “The Value Trap: Value Buys Risky Growth”, co-authored with Francesco Reggiani of Bocconi University.


CEASA Director of Research, Suzanne Morsfield, awarded research grant from the SWIFT Institute to report on “The Future of Financial Data Standards” with co-authors Stephen Yang of Stevens Institute, and Susan Yount of Workiva.

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CEASA welcomes submissions for online publication of papers analyzing and proposing solutions to current issues surrounding accounting and/or security analysis policy.

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