Monday, 28 September 2015

Research and Health Policy "to blog or not to blog"

By Tino Martí

That is the question. The strength of the link between research and health policy looks different depending on the perspective. Health services researchers expect a lot more feedback regarding their work in political decisions while the politicians need to be informed about the most effective way to ease the configuration of health policies based on scientific evidence. It’s a difficult transition bridge where the surface is eminently communicative.

In the "Web first" section of the influential Health Affairs, a study on the use of social media and perceptions of researchers has been published and is well worth reviewing (Grande D et al, 2014). During the Academy Health Annual Research Meeting, 215 investigators were interviewed using a mix of techniques (cases, assessment of broadcasting effectiveness and open qualitative questions). In the cases’ section, three ways of communicating research results to policy makers were presented: traditional media, social media and direct contact with decision-makers. Social media includes the blogosphere and the different social networks, particularly Twitter.

Although social media is considered as effective as traditional or direct contact, the confidence in the broadcasting manner, the respect for the scientific community and its contribution to the academic promotion are valued less if the chosen means is the social media. That is, if you want to be credible, respectable and promotable, it’s better to leave posts and tweets for more profane matters. However, the work covers an analysis detailed by the academic level of the respondent distinguishing between participants, partners and senior lecturers with expected and suggestive results, as illustrated in the following figure:

Social media communication is perceived very differently among the three groups, the teaching assistants -the younger group– considering it as more effective than the traditional means and at the same level of effectiveness as direct contact. With these results it’s not surprising to notice in the chart below, that only 21% of researchers are using blogs as a means of broadcasting while 14% are using Twitter:

A huge gap in the perception of social media derived from the degree of knowledge and the frequency of use prevails. But what is even more surprising is the tendency to regard the social media as substitutive rather than complementary. Just as an action of communication through direct contact is more effective when reinforced with a prior publication, a similar reinforcement can be expected when you add a social layer to the broadcasting of this publication. I'm sure the authors appreciate posts like this to broadcast the results that will soon appear in the papers.

Grande D et al. Translating research for health policy: Researcher's perceptions and the use of social media. Health Affairs. June 2014

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