Designing Workflows for Materials Characterization


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Experimental science is enabled by the combination of synthesis, imaging, and functional characterization. Synthesis of a new material is typically followed by a set of characterization methods aiming to provide feedback for optimization or discover fundamental mechanisms. However, the sequence of synthesis and characterization methods and their interpretation, or research workflow, has traditionally been driven by human intuition and is highly domain specific. Here we explore concepts of scientific workflows that emerge at the interface between theory, characterization, and imaging. We discuss the criteria by which these workflows can be constructed for special cases of multi-resolution structural imaging and structural and functional characterization. Some considerations for theory-experiment workflows are provided. We further pose that the emergence of user facilities and cloud labs disrupt the classical progression from ideation, orchestration, and execution stages of workflow development and necessitate development of universal frameworks for workflow design, including universal hyper-languages describing laboratory operation, reward functions and their integration between domains, and policy development for workflow optimization. These tools will enable knowledge-based workflow optimization, enable lateral instrumental networks, sequential and parallel orchestration of characterization between dissimilar facilities, and empower distributed research.
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