There is continuing encouragement for more researchers to engage with the public around their research. One of the goals of public engagement is to ensure that there is public input about policy decisions that may require difficult choices among competing values. Public engagement can be an effective way to assess the preferences of a particular group of people and has the potential of bringing a new perspective to the policymaking table.
In this study, the Q Method was used to engage members of local communities, and examine how those living in former metal mining landscapes value this heritage and their preferences for the long-term management of mine waste. The Q Method is a systematic study of participant viewpoints and it is used to investigate the perspectives of participants who represent different stances on an issue. This is done by having participants rank and sort a series of statements based on the degree to which the statement represents their perspective. When supporting successful public participation in decision making, practitioners need to know which methods work, but often such interventions lack any evaluation process. Here we describe and present an evaluation of the Q Method. Results indicate that although this method is time consuming (both for researchers and participants) and demanding, it is worth it due to the depth of engagement. The Q method made the participants feel that their opinion was being sought and valued, and allowed them to express their views on mining heritage, using their own words and in the context of their lives.