Stoned monkeys, menopausal yogis, video-gaming retirees and insect trading cards are among the stimulus-funded projects in North Carolina that have made the latest list of 100 questionable projects paid for by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The report issued today by Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma includes eight dubious projects from this state among 100 selected throughout the country.
"Summertime Blues: 100 Stimulus Projects that Give Taxpayers the Blues" highlights projects that are wasteful, mismanaged or plain worthless in terms of job creation.
All eight projects in this state are associated with university research. Projects cited in other states involved stimulus awards to local governments and private industry as well as academics.
Wake Forest University leads the North Carolina group with three citations, followed by two each for N.C. State University and Duke University.
UNC Charlotte has only one citation, but it merits the dubious honor of being ranked 2nd in the nation as an example of misspent taxpayer dollars.
UNC Charlotte received $762,372 to develop a computerized choreography program "that its creators believe can lead to a YouTube-like 'Dance Tube' online application," the report states.
The project is based on devices attached to dancers that record their movements for analysis.
The report also notes that the administrative overhead for this project is 44 percent.
Coming it at #28 on the list is a Wake Forest University study the report dubs "Monkeys Get High For Science."
The official name of the study is "Effect of Cocaine Self-Administration on Metabotropic Glutamate Systems."
The institution in Winston-Salem received $144,541 for this gem. A university spokesman defended the importance of the research and told the compilers of "Summertime Blues" that with regard to job creation, "it's actually a continuation of a job that might not still be there if it hadn't been fort the stimulus funding. And it's a good job."
Wake Forest also takes the #38 slot with its research into the beneficial effects of yoga for reducing menopausal hot flashes. The stimulus contributed nearly $300,000 for this inquiry that will involve 60 post-menopausal women.
N.C. State received $770,856 from the National Science Foundation to research how video games such as Nintendo Wii's Boom Blox can help improve the mental health of the elderly.
This study, ranked #39, is being jointly conducted with the Georgia Institute of Technology.
"One of our main goals is to produce guidelines for producing games for older adults," the overseers of the study said.
Duke University ranks #41 with $498,176 stimulus grant to investigate new approaches for improving privacy and functionality of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.
The National Science Foundation, which awarded the stimulus money, noted the research merits nearly half-a-million dollars because it will pose significant engineering challenges.
N.C. State received $253,123 to devise outreach efforts for its insect museum in Raleigh, a facility that had only 44 visitors last year.
The insect museum used some of the money to buy furniture and computer equipment, the report states.
It's also using the money to create an "Insect of the Week" feature on its web site and plans to design trading cards featuring the state's native insects.
This effort merited a #68 ranking on the list.
And finally, at #69, Wake Forest University was awarded $266,505 to continue its science education workshops for journalists.
Some of the other projects across the nation are also worth mentioning here. They include $1.9 million to the California Academy of Sciences to study ants in the Southwest Indian Ocean Islands and east Africa (#6), $497,893 to the American Legacy Foundation in the nation's capital to award taxpayer-funded smart phones to smokers who give up tobacco (#21), $199,862 to Pacific Environment, a San Francisco nonprofit, to aid Siberians in lobbying Russian policymakers (#23), $712,883 to Northwestern University to create artificial intelligence that will generate a "comedic performance agent" (#36), along with stimulus grants to promote stimulus grants and study the impact of stimulus grants.