January 6, 2011

Brandon Lockhart Receives Award From UNL Research Council

Conducting research can be an arduous process. When the research involves combing through hundreds of thousands of computer files it can even seem impossible, especially when combined with demands such as working with students and other academic pursuits.

So Dr. Brandon Lockhart of the UNL College of Business Finance department decided he needed help. He found help in the form of a research grant awarded to him through the UNL Research Council.

“This grant will allow me to purchase a dedicated computer and computer software to enable my research in this area to progress,” said Lockhart. “The text searches required to analyze the data requires substantial computer resources. A database build from a keyword text search can take several weeks with the computer unable to perform other tasks.”

Lockhart’s research involves examining corporate filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). For example, there have been over 675,000 8-K forms filed with the SEC since 1996. There are 28 event categories requiring an 8-K filing. Some of these include bankruptcy, disposition of assets, violation of financial covenants, and changes in officers, among others.

“My computer program communicates with the SEC’s server to download and organize any of their forms. Many of the forms have standardized reporting structures, enabling the harvesting of corporate disclosure detail not otherwise available in database form.”

Now Lockhart, who developed his text search skills while working on his dissertation at the University of Florida, wants to dig deeper and examine the finer details of the SEC’s documents.

“I have coded a computer program able to read text in order to identify details useful for other research projects on information events. I expect this research to lead to several projects.”

Lockhart also expects that the continuous filings being made to the SEC will allow him even more potential going forward with regard to analyzing trends and changes in corporate filings. Staying on top of those trends is another way that the UNL College of Business is maintaining a position at the forefront of academic research.