Can a scientist just decide to do audacious science? It looks as though a person with a solid foundation and a good mind can, indeed, decide to become a bold scientist. Our conversations with, and the careers of, a few audacious scientists offer some rough guidelines. Scientific audacity starts with a passion for a topic. It requires the judicious selection of an institution and a mentor. And it necessitates searching for an important problem. Do these things and your chances of doing important science improve?
Note that that paragraph stated the necessity of finding an "important" problem, not just something "interesting". I've argued before that just because something is interesting does not make it important. I also think that this is why the old Bell Labs was such a fertile ground for any important discovery and innovations. It was precisely this ability to pursue such far-out problems that made it such a hotbed for creativity.