ACDS position statement: Engagement with disciplinary research is a distinguishing feature of a University Science education


The ACDS advocates strongly for research-informed and research-led teaching in university science education.  We argue that quality university education is best delivered by teaching staff who directly or indirectly engage in the disciplines in which they teach.

University Science research creates new knowledge and informs and shapes teaching and learning in undergraduate and graduate university programs. Much has been written about the “teaching research nexus” however recent decision making (government and institutional) is potentially contributing to a separation of research and teaching that breaks the link between university teaching and research.

The importance of this issue to the ACDS and member universities has been highlighted in our submission to the recent Australian Universities Accord Panel Discussion process.  The ACDS submission calls for a funding model for universities that incentivises research-informed teaching and specifically recommends the need to ‘Ensure that research-informed teaching continues to be enshrined in universities. We argue that this should be achieved through education policy and retaining and supporting an academic workforce in which the academics who deliver teaching are directly involved in or have a strong awareness of knowledge generation or connected to research-intensive discipline experts who are at the forefront of their disciplines’.

The ACDS has recently released a statement about the impact of research on teaching and advocates that teaching informed by research should be central to the experience for students and staff and is a distinguishing feature of a university education.  

You can read the ACDS statement about the role of research in teaching below or download a PDF version here.

ACDS Statement – The impact of disciplinary research on teaching and learning

March 2023

Academic leadership at a discipline level is an essential part of the character of university teaching. The separation of research and teaching at the government and institutional level suggests a poor understanding of this phenomenon. This paper discusses the role and importance of maintaining the research-teaching nexus in University teaching and learning.

Science encompasses both a body of knowledge and an evidence-based process of discovery. An effective university education must incorporate both aspects and this is best done when teaching is undertaken by academics involved in, or familiar with, research advances. University science curricula benefit from the research-teaching nexus when:

  • a body of scientific knowledge is organised and presented in ways that are accessible to students and,
  • the processes by which that knowledge is acquired are explained and evaluated.

It is only when the latter complements the former that graduates acquire the capability to be critical and analytical science-literate citizens, rather than simply consumers of knowledge.

Science as a body of knowledge

Ongoing curriculum development at the staff level is a hallmark of university teaching. It is the way that cutting-edge research ideas become mainstreamed into the undergraduate curriculum. Some examples are genomics and proteomics, nanotechnology, data science and artificial intelligence (AI). In the last century, these were on the frontiers of research but now they appear in undergraduate courses. Curriculum shifts to incorporate new knowledge are made over time by academic staff and made possible by their engagement with disciplinary research. Engagement should be such that they maintain currency in the fields that they teach, are able to review developments in both content and processes critically and integrate them creatively in courses as appropriate.

Science as a process of discovery

Acquisition of specialist knowledge, while remaining an important part of university education, is no longer the complete goal. Instead, the soft skills that are likely to be valued by employers include curiosity, creativity, a logical approach to planning and problem-solving, critical thinking, evaluation and self-evaluation skills and communication skills. Since these desired generic skills are in many respects similar to those needed to become an effective researcher, they may be effectively developed through the provision of opportunities for students to engage in research-based learning. This involves the development of course learning outcomes and coursework activities such as understanding current disciplinary research questions, developing expertise in research methods and analytical skills, and developing an understanding of the nature, practice and limitations of science.


The conceptualisation of the research-teaching nexus presented here emphasises a curriculum that uses researchers’ expertise to develop the knowledge and skills that graduates need to contribute effectively to society.  This requires:

  1. Funding arrangements that acknowledge and support suitable forms of research engagement of teaching staff in the disciplines in which they teach, and the time needed for curriculum development.
  2. Mechanisms by which universities support, monitor and report on the integration of research into the curriculum.

Endorsed at ACDS Executive Meeting 02/2023