In  the conglomerate of voices dominating people's Twitter feeds, health policy researchers lack a distinct presence.

Health policy researchers are reluctant to tap into social media to spread their findings, according to a recent Penn study. Moreover, their reluctance stems from a lack of confidence in web outlets.

“We were surprised by the level of nervousness and anxiety in engaging in social media as researchers, “ Assistant professor of medicine David Grande said. “Many were worried that using social media could get them in trouble in some ways, and even cause their findings to be confused or misinterpreted.”

Grande and assistant professor of medicine Zachary Meisel, led a team of researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine in investigating why health policy researchers are so reluctant to use social media channels. The team surveyed 215 researchers, mostly M.D. ’s and Ph.D. ’s.

According to Grande — who is also co-director of policy at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics — the team was interested by the disconnect in communication in American healthcare. They figured that social media could play an important role in improving communication regarding health policy.

The research team was not surprised by their findings — in fact, they expected very few of the survey participants to engage in social media based on their personal experiences in the field.

“Broadly speaking, traditional academic publications and journals are the most valued in academia,” Grande said. “The highest measure of success in the field is how many times an article is cited in other articles. Researchers are already reluctant to use other forms of dissemination to other audiences, and social media is even further out from traditional media, bringing an even higher risk.”

Nevertheless, Grande and his team did not hesitate to use social media to share their discovery. They took full advantage of the web by creating a blog post about the article they published in Health Affairs. 

They even took their findings to Twitter, tweeting links to both the original article and the blog post. 

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