INSPIRE -- The Documentary
Produced by Jacopo Annese, Ph.D., The Brain Observatory


We interviewed 80 young scientists at the undergraduate and graduate level selected randomly on occasion of an international neuroscience conference. We built a basic photographic studio within the exhibitor’s booth of The Brain Observatory and filmed the video interviews in the arc of three days on the exhibitors’ floor. All interviews were structured as follows: After obtaining signed consent for utilizing the video material, the interviewee was asked to spell their name and to detail their affiliations. Four questions followed: 1. “What is your role or position in the laboratory”? 2. “What scientific or clinical questions are you currently investigating and which methods do you use”? 3. “What is the overall goal of your research”? The guests were generally briefed on these three questions before the interview. The fourth question, on the contrary was not expected and it went as follows: “what would you do if you had all the resources you need; i.e. unlimited funds, institutional and political support, and infrastructure”? It generally took some time for the implications of this question to be appreciated and very often the student could not generate an answer readily. In the majority of cases, it was evident that such a question had not been entertained before and that a far reaching, personal, objective was missing. In some cases, the student restated what the pursuits of the laboratory were and/or identified with their Principal Investigator’s goals. In most cases, however, when the interviewer encouraged them to think independently and freely about their intimate motivations for pursuing a career in science and medicine, most students were able to produce very creative (and we mean very creative) imageries of their own ideas and aspirations.


To produce a documentary based on interviews recorded in campuses across the U.S. (or across selected University Campuses Internationally) and to compare the level of independent thinking and in universities and medical schools as well as liberal arts colleges. In addition to producing an edited film, all raw interviews (and associated portrait photography) will be archived on a dedicated web site openly accessible to policy makers, and to research on learning. In essence, our documentary aims at taking the pulse of the new generation’s scientific inspiration and creative thinking.