Lead author Dr. David Grande, assistant professor of Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues surveyed 215 health and health-policy researchers -- primarily M.D.s and Ph.D.s -- and found 21 percent used blogs and Facebook to communicate their research findings in the past year.
However, 65 percent said they used traditional media channels, such as press releases or media interviews to communicate their findings.
Younger faculty members were more favorable than senior colleagues about using social media.
Survey participants expressed reluctance to use social media and many described it as replete with opinion and "junk" and not a compatible place for scientific research.
The researchers also said social media created professional risks and was not respected by their peers or their academic institutions. They were also uncertain about how effective social media was in communicating to the public and media.
"Historically, the communication gap between researchers and policy makers has been large," the study authors concluded.
"Social media are a new and relatively untested tool, but they have the potential to create new communication channels between researchers and policy makers to help narrow that gap."
The findings were published in the journal Health Affairs.