After learning about the Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau through an online science video collection, Edson Filho will now be behind the camera making films himself as a video blogger at this year’s meeting. His path to this point — like his research in sport and exercise psychology — can be summed up in a word: unconventional.
Like his playmates in Belo Horizonte, a city teeming with skyscrapers in southeastern Brazil, Filho grew up practicing footwork on soccer fields. By age 17, after years of competitive sports, Filho knew he would not be the next Pelé, one of Brazil’s most famous players. He applied for and received a Fulbright doctoral fellowship to study socio-cognition and group dynamics in sports at Florida State University in Tallahassee. His final dissertation defense paid off handsomely: he won the American Psychological Association’s dissertation award in 2012 in exercise and sport psychology. “I was bold and I am proud of that,” Edson told me in an emailed interview.
Filho pursued a coveted slot at the Lindau meeting with similar audacity. One day he stumbled upon GEOSET, a collection of video presentations made by top researchers, and sponsored in part by the Kroto Research Initiative. Edson boldly emailed Sir Harold Kroto asking for a recommendation letter to attend the 63rd Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau. (Kroto and colleagues won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996.) Once again, Filho was rewarded for his courage.
Filho took time away from his busy schedule as a post-doctoral fellow in neuroscience and psychophysicology at the University of Chieti in Pescara, Italy, to discuss videos and science in an emailed interview.
Your video blog theme is “Connect!” and builds upon the idea that a global network among researchers is important to modern science. Why is this network important now more than in the past?
Many people think that “social capital” is the most valuable skill to possess. However, when I think of the topic “Connect,” I don’t think in social terms only. I think about cognitive and applied implications as well. Connecting new ideas is especially important nowadays, and one also needs to learn about applied guidelines, such as “how” and “why” should I connect to new people and new domains?
What are three qualities a video must have to reach a wide audience?
1. “Personality.” A video does not need to be the best in everything (sound, editing, resources) but a good video needs to have something special and unique. It is like a person – some are pleasant, some are funny, and some are smart.
2. “A take-home message.” A memorable movie typically has a good message. I always think of ‘The Matrix.’ While I liked the fancy effects, the symbolic message behind the movie was brilliant. I enjoy movies where I learn something. And when you learn something you remember it, the message sticks with you, and you create a lasting memory.
3. “Flow.” Good books, friendships, music, etc., all have fluidity and a level of continuity. I do not mean to suggest that it has to be a linear relationship, but quality video needs to have connecting links, or at least a context. So you look at it and think “Ok, I think that’s what is going to happen next” or “Ok, there is no linear message but there is a context here”. Think of arts…the Greek people or Dali…there are connection links, context, or both.
What is your secret for getting researchers to talk with you on camera?
I think it is important to ask questions that the researchers are interested in, specifically questions they feel genuinely passionate about. I also think it is important to show interest and offer options…If they can’t speak with you now, that’s fair enough… but make yourself available for future conversations (“Can we do it tomorrow? I would really appreciate your input.”). Excellence involves passion and resilience.
When you are filming, what is mantra you have?
Describe a memory — that has not yet happened, of course — that you hope to take away from the Lindau meeting.
I would like to be inspired by the most humble Laureates. These individuals changed the world. Thanks to their innovative research and ideas, we have nanotechnology, penicillin, and there is no more war in certain places (peace winners). Despite these great achievements, I anticipate that the Laureates will be way more humble than many academics. It is like that quote that says “the more they know, the more they know that they don’t know”… I would like to keep this memory so I remain humble and down to earth despite any successes and failures along the way.
Note: Before you see Filho’s videos, see him in this 2011 on-camera interview on “The Good News,” a show produced by the broadcast channel ABC 27 in Florida.