Only 14 percent of health policy researchers reported using Twitter to communicate their research findings over the past year, according to a new study from University of Pennsylvania.

In contrast, 65 percent used traditional media channels, such as press releases or media interviews.

While participants believed that social media can be an effective way to communicate research findings, many of them lacked the confidence to use it.

They felt their academic peers and institutions did not value it or respect it as much as traditional media and direct contact with policymakers.

"Most health policy researchers are not using social media to communicate their research results, which could be a significant missed opportunity to expose a larger audience to important health news and findings," said lead study author David Grande, an assistant professor of Medicine at Penn Medicine.

The study surveyed 215 health and health-policy researchers. The researchers worry about how their peers and home institutions perceive social media, and that many describe it as replete with opinion and "junk".

Hence, they are concerned about presenting their scientific results in such settings.

"Historically, there has been a significant communication gap between researchers, on the one hand, and the policymakers and the public at large," senior author Zachary Meisel said.

Social media channels are promising tools for closing this gap, provided they are used appropriately and effectively, he added.

The study was published online in the journal Health Affairs.


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