A White House petition actually paid off for once.
Per the people's request, federally funded research—anything that costs more than $100 million to find out—is about to become publicly available.
It took a while. The petition was created back in May 2012, and it nabbed 65,704 signatures in a month—far more than the 25,000 requirement at the time.
The announcement is one of the first notable successes of the We the People petition site, which has been derailed lately with requests for a state pokemon and the deportation of Piers Morgan, among dozens of other laughable causes.
In turn, the White House increased threshold of minimum signatures from 25,000 to 100,000. But such benchmarks don’t guarantee action. It just means that the White House has to respond, to affirm it's listening. And if your petition isn't something that can be accomplished by the executive branch of the U.S. government, there's no reason to think it's going to be heard at all. (Sorry, people who signed "Petition Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou to grant medical parole to jailed Chen Shui-bian."
Fortunately, though, the Office of Science and Technology Policy does indeed fall under President Obama's authority, and it has the power to make this information public. Dr. John Holdren, the head of that office, explained the process, speaking in his official capacity as advisor to Obama:
The logic behind enhanced public access is plain. We know that scientific research supported by the Federal Government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators. Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth. ...
Moreover, this research was funded by taxpayer dollars. Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support.
Photo by Key Foster