Closing the Innovator-Inventor Gap: Evidence from Proactive (Opt-Out) Outreach

Last registered on May 13, 2024


Trial Information

General Information

Closing the Innovator-Inventor Gap: Evidence from Proactive (Opt-Out) Outreach
Initial registration date
May 03, 2024

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
May 13, 2024, 11:58 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

University of Califonia, Berkeley

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of California, Berkeley

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
While women comprise 35% of the STEM workforce, they make up only 13% of inventors; Black professionals represent 9% of STEM workers but only 1.2% of inventors (NCSES, 2023; Akcigit and Goldschlag, 2022). These discrepancies highlight a substantial “innovator-inventor gap,” or the reduced rate at which innovators from underrepresented groups (URGs) become inventors on patents despite their presence in the
STEM workforce (Chien, 2024). Our proposed field experiment will investigate the influence that proactive outreach has on STEM professionals' engagement with the invention process at a collaborating high-tech firm. By randomly assigning those who have never submitted an inventive idea for patenting to treatment and control groups, we plan to examine how different framing (opt-in/opt-out) and highlighted factors (extrinsic rewards/intrinsic motives) influence engagement with the inventive process, which we will measure through participation rates in early stages of the process (e.g., attending a brainstorming event) and submitted inventive ideas. Then, we will evaluate whether opt-out framing reduces the innovator-inventor gap as well as STEM professionals' self-identity as inventors and their perceptions of the firm's innovation culture. Overall, this study will provide experimental evidence on the effectiveness of such interventions in closing gaps within firms and will augment quasi-experimental evidence from natural experiments at four other collaborating firms, which provide evidence consistent with opt-out framing attenuating the innovator-inventor gap.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Chien, Colleen and Jillian Grennan. 2024. "Closing the Innovator-Inventor Gap: Evidence from Proactive (Opt-Out) Outreach." AEA RCT Registry. May 13.
Experimental Details


We will be studying the innovation engagement of technical and engineering staff at a Silicon Valley high-tech firm, who will receive targeted emails encouraging them to participate in innovation. We will work with the firm to randomly select a set of people from the technical and engineering staff who have never engaged or only engaged a limited amount in innovation practices such as invention disclosure, inventor training, and patent filing. In shorthand, we refer to these people as “never submitters.” The firm will then send one or more targeted emails to this randomly selected subset of "never submitters," inviting them to participate in the patenting process. This email outreach from the firm's patent office will include a link to a short video to help the "never submitter" get started on their innovation journey. Subsequently, the firm will follow business as usual, noting who participates in innovation according to their normal processes.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary endpoints are divided into four categories: initial reaction (e.g., email opened), participation in early-stage innovative activities (e.g., learning about the patent submission process through website, attending an IP training, attending a brainstorming session, requesting a meeting with a patent team member, reaching out on Slack, meeting with a patent ambassador (limited to offices with patent ambassadors), sought advice on an inventive idea (only survey), worked on projects likely to yield patentable inventions (only survey)), involvement in later-stage invention activities (e.g., submission of an inventive idea, that idea being filed as a patent application, that idea being abandoned, that idea receiving other IP protection, and the size of the team submitting the idea), and perceptions of self and workplace (e.g., identifying as an inventor, desire to work on tasks leading to being a named inventor, the extent to which teamwork and collaboration are part of the culture and norms are developed around it).
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
See PAP.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The population will be divided into control and 4 treatment arms. A description of the messages the groups will receive is included in our pre-analysis plan. The treatment arms include:

Control: A group of never-submitters who will not get additional emails through this experiment. They will, however, periodically receive neutral messages without any specific framing or motivational factors from the patent team that are part of the routine course of business.
Arm 1 (personalization + intrinsic motivation)
Arm 2 (personalization + extrinsic motivation)
Arm 3 (generic + intrinsic motivation)
Arm 4 (generic + extrinsic motivation)
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
The computer randomized the assignment into groups using the seed number "04232024" and a random uniform distribution. Before implementation, the control and treatment arms were assessed for their covariate balance. The treatment and control groups were statistically indistinguishable for gender, race, citizenship, geographic location, job title, and years working at the firm.
Randomization Unit
Randomized at the individual level.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
No clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
988 control never-submitters, and 3933 treated never-submitters.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
The treated never-submitters are grouped into four treatment arms, each with 1002, 945, 1000, and 986 never-submitters, respectively.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
For the early-stage involvement in inventive activities, we have data for the precise population under study from our baseline survey. To collect future outcomes, we will have a research assistant record requests for contact based on the patent professionals' emails and correspondences on Slack. The same research assistant will also keep track of participation in brainstorming events and IP training. Since the probability of being assigned to each treatment is equal across observations, our power calculation follows a common format across all treatment-control comparisons. In particular, there is a control group with 988 engineers and a combined treatment group with 3933 engineers. That treatment group is further split into four arms. Arm 1 has 1002, arm 2 has 945, arm 3 has 1000, and arm 4 has 986 observations. Our baseline survey shows that 33\% of never-submitters have done at least one step in the invention process, and the standard deviation is 47\%. Further, we know that the total number of early steps completed is 0.6, and the standard deviation is 1.08. We assume a statistical significance level of 0.05 and a desired power of 0.80. The MDES, based on a two-sided test using our assumed $\alpha = 0.05$ and $\beta = 0.80$, is 6.58 percentage points for the proportion of never-submitters who will complete at least one step in the invention process. By comparison, the MDES for the proportion of never-submitters who will complete at least one step in the invention process for only the extrinsic treatment group (i.e., Arm 2 + Arm 4 = 945 + 986 = 1931) relative to the control group is 8.58 percentage points. The higher MDES is attributable to fewer never-submitters receiving the extrinsic treatment rather than the proactive outreach treatment. When we perform similar calculations for the total number of early steps completed, we see that the MDES for the total number of early steps completed is 0.151 steps for the proactive outreach messaging and 0.196 for the extrinsic arms for the proactive outreach. This means that we can detect a statistically significant average treatment effect for the extrinsic treatment group for the total number of early steps completed when it differs from the control group by 0.196 steps or more. For additional details, please see our PAP.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) Office for Protection of Human Subjects (OPHS) at UC Berkeley
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

Pre-analysis Plan for ``Closing the Innovator-Inventor Gap: Evidence from Proactive (Opt-Out) Outreach''

MD5: e36cb8284d6e649481234a7db94a7e74

SHA1: a1b9b446306da58cc86897ef7ed1704713928175

Uploaded At: May 03, 2024