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Designing workflows for materials characterization

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Applied Physics Reviews
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Experimental science is enabled by the combination of synthesis, imaging, and functional characterization organized into evolving discovery loop. Synthesis of new material is typically followed by a set of characterization steps 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 multiresolution structural imaging and functional characterization, as a part of more general material synthesis workflows. Some considerations for theory–experiment workflows are provided. We further pose that the emergence of user facilities and cloud labs disrupts the classical progression from ideation, orchestration, and execution stages of workflow development. To accelerate this transition, we propose the framework for workflow design, including universal hyperlanguages describing laboratory operation, ontological domain matching, 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.