Report: Researchers paid to sting genitals, study wet animals

What makes goldfish feel sexy? How many shakes does it take for a wet dog to dry off? And really -- how much does a bee sting on a penis hurt?

Government-funded studies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to answer bizarre questions like these, according to a new survey of questionable spending released Tuesday by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

“Twenty Questions: Government studies that will leave you scratching your head” highlights a selection of "wasteful" taxpayer-funded studies that cost a total of $35 million.

Flake says, "Admittedly, these expenditures consume a relatively small slice of overall science budget and do not represent the larger, more impressive body of work supported by NIH, NSF, and other agencies. Some are frivolous while others simply fall short of the merits that should be demonstrated to qualify for taxpayer support when measured against other priorities.  In today’s budget climate, every dollar needs to count. The impact of not spending wisely is not just wasted money, but missed opportunities. We cannot afford either. 

Flake said the money could have been better spent treating cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. "When federal agencies don’t spend our limited research dollars wisely, they’re not just wasting money, they’re missing opportunities, and we can’t afford either," he said.

He adds that a lack of transparency also makes it impossible to account for how research money is spent or calculate the cost of specific studies conducted with federal grants.