Petition granted to make taxpayer-funded research publicly available

According to the Huffington Post, the White House has just granted a petition to "require free access over the internet to scientific journal articles resulting from taxpayer-funded research."  Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, writes:

I have issued a memorandum today (.pdf) to Federal agencies that directs those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months after original publication. As you pointed out, the public access policy adopted by the National Institutes of Health has been a great success. And while this new policy call does not insist that every agency copy the NIH approach exactly, it does ensure that similar policies will appear across government.

This sounds super-exciting, but I have some questions:

  • Which agencies conduct research for less than $100 million?
  • What constitutes an R&D department?
  • To what extent does this apply to research already done, and currently boxed-up?

I'll be looking over the next few days for criticisms of this response, and I'll report back on whether this is the step forward it looks like, or if it's a shiny but ultimately empty gesture.

D&D advances medical science

(via Reddit) Ed Yong, a blogger at Discover Magazine, writes about an eye-tracking study.  His post, 12-year-old uses Dungeons and Dragons to help scientist dad with his research, is about the problem of human attention -- when we see someone, we focus on their eyes.  Or, their faces.  It's hard to tell which.

One evening, Kingstone was explaining these two hypotheses to Julian over dinner. “A colleague had said that dissociating the two ideas — eyes vs. centre of head — would be impossible because the eyes of humans are in the centre of the head,” Kingstone said. “I told Julian that when people say something is impossible, they sometimes tell you more about themselves than anything.”

Julian, Kingstone's son, suggested that his father use pictures from the Monster Manual, a sort of self-explanatory D&D book.

The Reddit thread I got this post from also contained a comment that linked a picture which appears to be from the study, showing the results for three different kinds of image: human, humanoid, and monster.

The article also points out the significance of this research:

This isn’t just an academic exercise, says Kingstone. “If people are just targeting the centre of the head, like they target the centre of most objects, and getting the eyes for free, that’s one thing. Bu if they are actually seeking out eyes that’s another thing altogether,” he says. It means that different parts of the brain are involved when we glean social information from our peers. It might also help to explain why people with autism often fail to make eye contact with other people, and which parts of the brain are responsible.