Selective tweets can wake up health policymakers

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Effective, selective tweets can advance research from lab to health policymakers, say scientists. They also say that with over 300 million monthly users, Twitter’s success has piqued the interests of many researchers as a social media tool to reach their target audience.

“Twitter is a venue with the potential to help scientists circulate health-related research to policymakers,” said Julie Kapp, associate professor from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

“However, before encouraging researchers to flood Twitter with hashtags and tweets, it’s best to develop an evidence-based approach to tweeting that leverages key people and moments,” he explained.

Kapp and colleagues found that nearly all health policymakers, or individuals directly related to the actual writing of health legislation, had Twitter accounts and many use their accounts frequently.

Kapp suggests that researchers should tweet in an effort to educate policymakers rather than persuade them.

“The tweet should be a concise statement of the main finding,” she added.

“If scientists know their research relates to a current policy under consideration, they should consider noting that in the tweet. Researchers also should provide a link to their research articles,” Kapp said.

Building trust through the 140 characters allotted by Twitter likely will require consistent communication patterns over time.

In addition, she said, that in order to use research findings to drive policy, researchers must have a strong understanding of influencers, behaviours and activists specific to the Twitter culture.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

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