SEP 21, 2010 10:12am ET

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Bias in BI


A few weeks ago, I wrote on the U.S News Best Colleges for 2011. One of my observations was that the rankings seemed to favor small, highly-selective and well-endowed private schools over larger public state universities. Indeed for 2011, no state school cracked the top 20 national universities, and only two, Berkeley and UCLA, made the top 25.

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Comments (6)
Well done article, Steve. Indeed, when TDWI first started doing Web surveys in 2002 (we were the first in the BI space), our sample sizes of 600 to 1200 mitigated the inherent bias of self-selecting responders. We were told we were "safe" by one of our trusted academic advisors who teaches stats in a business school.

However, as research houses and media firms discovered Web surveys, our response rates have fallen as the market has become saturated. We are now seriously contemplating moving to an unbiased panel format to ensure the integrity of our research findings as well as to minimize wear and tear on our lists.

Posted by Wayne E | Wednesday, September 22 2010 at 12:54PM ET
Why is this article tag lined with BI? BI has no role or relevance to this topic. That said, these surveys are by their nature "biased". They are based on opinions just like the opinions section in these newspapers. So why take issue with them by claiming they are biased. Of course they are biased!

Anyone who takes credence in these subjective surveys deserves their blissful ignorance. There is no peer review or validation of the survey or its biases. What is the process for ensuring surveys or the interpretation of results is not biased? The process is anecdotal. There are no published guidelines and few in industry subject themselves to peer reviews, and less so news organizations. News has become entertainment. Consider these surveys as a source of comic relief.

The whole arena of surveys is fictional and for that matter so are those who profess they are doing "business intelligence. There are few that apply any rigorous review or validation process to the development of the surveys or analytical models.

I suggest that what is needed are a set of guidelines and review process to validate the results of any analysis. If the survey or analytic has not followed this rigorous process then it is nothing more than an opinion. There are established processes to do this but few know of them and even fewer apply them. That's a pragmatic solution. Until then, accept these surveys as entertainment!

Posted by Richard O | Wednesday, September 22 2010 at 6:16PM ET
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