Many pitfalls befall researchers who scrutinize topics such as prostitution and/or sex trafficking.1 Among the difficulties encountered is the issue that there is no formula to follow that will indicate whether someone has or has not been trafficked, exploited, and/or coerced into prostitution or, is a voluntary participant,2 contrary to the claims made by Donna Hughes.3 What overshadows those difficulties is the experience of gaining clearance from my institutions’ Ethics Committee.4 These latter difficulties are the focus of this chapter. As I present in this chapter some of the difficulties and complexities

encountered albeit, from a limited perspective, these hurdles relate specifically to my application for ethical clearance from one of Australia’s Group of Eight (Go8)5 University’s Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC/IRB). During the process, I discovered that although my research project had been accepted on one level through admission to the Ph.D. programme by the university’s prescribed body – Postgraduate Studies – there was another ‘gatekeeper’ who had the potential power to withhold ethical clearance from me and my wherewithal to carry out my own fieldwork in order to collect original data. The aim of this chapter is to demonstrate that despite the normative

rhetoric of ‘risk factor’ used by the IRB, which emphasises its ‘duty of care toward and, integrity of ’ the researcher and their research participant[s], its real concern lay in the fact that the committee’s unease was skewed toward protecting the university’s public reputation. I argue that this is a result of political wind-of-change within the university system.6 With the rise of the neoliberal university, research needs to be either of innovative marketability/ grant income value or of public policy feasibility in order to legitimate an instrumental measurement for it to be valued.7