Professor Steven Shafer alerted conference delegates at a recent international meeting to the value of considering topics for future research in terms of what the most important questions are that remain to be solved1. He quoted from an issue of Science magazine, in which the editors reported questions they thought pointed to the greatest current scientific knowledge gaps2. Two of the top 25 related to anaesthesia in a broad sense: the biological basis of consciousness and how memories are stored and retrieved. Others have noted the relevance of asking patients what they considered research priorities to be3,4. We designed a simple study to ask patients what topics they thought were the most important for future anaesthesia research.