1998 INVENTION INDEX™
MORE SUPPORT FOR CANCER CURE THAN AIDS
CURE, NATIONAL SURVEY REPORTS
Annual Invention Index Survey Finds
Outranks Cloning Research
CAMBRIDGE, MA (January 1998) — More Americans would
support a tax hike for a cancer cure than AIDS cure, and twice as
many Americans would pay more taxes to fund the search for extra-terrestrial
life than for cloning experiments, according to the Invention Index,
a national survey on inventions and inventors sponsored yearly by
the Lemelson-MIT Program. The Invention Index is one several public
awareness activities conducted by the Lemelson-MIT Program, a national
educational initiative celebrating American invention and innovation.
The survey was conducted by telephone in November, 1997. A representative
sample of 1,014 Americans, 18 and older, were asked a series of
questions gauging the level of public support for various types
of inventions and inventors. Respondents were asked if the government
should fund the search for inventions in general; whether government-sponsored
inventors should profit from their work; and if they would support
or oppose a tax hike to fund the search for inventions to cure cancer
or AIDS, and inventions related to fetal tissue research, improved
atomic energy, better spy satellite technology, the search for extra-terrestrial
life, and cloning. Percentages reflect the proportions of all respondents
voting on each invention individually. Respondents were not asked
to rank items against each other.
Almost all respondents — 99 percent — would pay more
taxes for inventions in general. However, respondents disagreed
on the topic of government-sponsored inventors profiting from their
"This survey indicates that Americans are still adventurers
at heart and understand that science is the endless frontier where
there are always new explorations to be made," said Dr. Lester
Thurow, author, professor of Management and Economics at the MIT
Sloan School of Management and chair of the Lemelson-MIT Awards
Board. He added, "With the cold war over interest in biological
areas is up and military sciences is down."
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Cancer cure outranks AIDS cure, search for life
beyond Earth wins over cloning 2—1
Almost nine in ten (87%) Invention Index survey participants said
they would pay more taxes for a cancer cure. Support for an AIDS
cure came in second with 80% of the vote. Medical breakthroughs
were so strongly endorsed among those polled that close to four
in ten (38%) approved increased funding for controversial areas
such as fetal tissue research.
An energy-conscious one-third of those polled supported atomic
energy-related inventions. Increased spending on military technology
— improving spy satellite capabilities — ranked fourth
at 31 percent. The popularity of such television shows as the X-Files
was reflected by the endorsement of almost one-fifth of respondents
— 16 percent — of a tax hike to search for life on other
planets. However, only a minority of those polled (8 percent), said
they would support a tax increase for cloning-related inventions.
Dr. E. James Chern, former candidate for the half-million dollar
Lemelson-MIT prize and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center engineer
observed, "While cancer and AIDS research to benefit our physical
well being are of the highest priority, advancing energy research
to support future needs, new satellite capabilities for world peace
monitoring, and technologies to enable the search for life beyond
Earth are also in order. Clearly, the dream is alive, and people
are willing to pay for it."
Similar response from women and men on fetal
Men and women agreed equally on the importance of a cure for cancer,
with 87 percent of both sexes supporting a tax increase for a breakthrough.
Women were slightly more likely than men to back an AIDS cure at
82 percent of women vs. 78 percent of men. Approval of fetal tissue
research was almost equal between the sexes (38 percent of men vs.
37 percent of women).
In the remaining categories, men were more inclined to spend extra
dollars on high-technology than were women. Significantly more men
than women (41 percent vs. 26 percent) supported improved atomic
energy and better spy satellite technology (38 percent vs. 24 percent).
Men outpointed women almost three-to-one (22 percent vs. 9 percent)
on the search for extra-terrestrial life, and endorsed cloning almost
two-to-one over women (10 percent vs. 6 percent).
Younger respondents favor search for life beyond planet Earth The
Index's youngest participants (18-34) led all age cohorts in support
for the search for life on other planets (22 percent) and cloning
(11 percent). However, the Invention Index found the search for
extra-terrestrials almost equally popular among the 55-64 age group
with 18 percent of the vote. Although young respondents favored
additional taxes for research overall, the 55-64 age category scored
the highest among all ages — 94 percent in favor of a cancer
cure. Atomic energy and betterspy satellite technology were equally
important (36 percent) to the youngest respondents.
Who profits? Opinion divided, Index discovers
Slightly more than half of the respondents (54 percent) believed
government-funded inventors should profit from their discoveries,
but 38 percent opposed such profit for inventors. Eighteen percent
had no opinion on the topic. Men were significantly more inclined
than women to support the profit motives of government inventors,
with two thirds of men (63 percent) taking this view compared with
fewer than half (46 percent) of the women polled. Women were more
likely than men to oppose making a profit on an invention (43 percent
vs. 33 percent).
About the Lemelson-MIT Program
Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994
by the late independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife,
Dorothy. The Program celebrates inventor/innovator role models through
outreach activities and annual awards including the world's largest
for invention, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Program encourages
young Americans to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering,
technology and entrepreneurship. The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded
by the Lemelson Foundation, which supports other invention initiatives
at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Hampshire
College, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance
and the University of Nevada, Reno.
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