Whenever we look at the survey and comparison fact and figure, we get excited to see where we stand in the survey. Are the survey actually give us real fact and figure, or just the opinion; may be based on the biased variable?
Let's take the example of the Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index - which relates sustainability at a national level with national competitiveness. There are several factors to be considered when you look into different competitive index such as challenges and accomplish from the survey.
Challenges and Problem associated with conducting survey and ranking system
The factor consider in the survey conduct could be biased for some country or institute, but may be beneficial to another country. Factor like population, capital per income, size, people who are conducting the survey particularly their background, available resources available to conduct the survey. The factor like population determines huge difference as a comparison between the United State of America with few hundred millions of population as compared to some European countries with few million, same goes with large public university compared with small private school. Other factors include first resources available in first world country and developing countries, and its income per capital and infrastructure. Sometimes it's also important to factor that some countries are specialized and focus on certain things as compared to other companies such as toys, furniture and footwear are specialized in China as compared to service sector and highly paid job in the USA.
People who conduct survey try their best to match and compare all the factor, and set certain criteria and category to be unbiased. With so much specialization and globalization, it's hard to make sure that survey are performed perfectly even with sustainability. When conducting sustainability survey on the base of human, social, economic and environmental, each country is completely different from one and another.
Goals behind conducting Survey and Ranking
What do you plan to achieve from the statistical survey?
there is no simple answer to this question because each survey is catered different niche market or a particular group of people. A survey like sustainability or ranking of school or comparing different product give a deep understanding of the product. Although they may be different and hard to collect data, the research behind the survey show the importance of the topic and encourage others to conduct their own survey as well. It also shows the importance of the topic and gives the opportunity to see where one stand as compared to another. Many time people assume that they are doing better than other, or far ahead in the game, but conducting a survey and ranking them help to evaluate and compare where they actually stand, and their weak points. Overall survey and ranking system are good strategies to think and compare and learn from other who are far ahead in the ranking.
Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index may favor European countries, but it also gives us an idea how much effort they are making it sustainability living and things they are doing to improve themselves. those who are at the top, people can look into these countries deeply and research on the statistical data to see, what are they doing which making them differently.
Holistic factors in ranking and survey
I would argue, most surveys don't give holistic factor as they are more focus on a certain topic. The ranking just tells us where countries or organization stand. to have a deeper understanding of the topic, one need to do deep digging into the topic and look at the factor which makes the country or organization at the position they are standing. It may give us the answer our where question, but why and how are not normally answered by the survey.
At the end I would say, the survey is a helpful resource but we shouldn't totally rely on them. It's a good way to make yourself feel happy.