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Published June 12, 2023 | Version 1.00
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Addressing Rigor and Reproducibility in Thermal, Heterogeneous Catalysis

  • 1. Northwestern University
  • 2. Purdue University
  • 3. Penn State University


Heterogeneous catalysis has long served as the bedrock of the manufacturing of energy carriers, fuels and chemicals, and various technologies for pollution abatement. The significant complexity and variability spanning the entire breadth of catalyst material properties, synthesis methods, characterization techniques, and evaluation procedures, has focused attention on the need to establish community-accepted best practices for ensuring high-quality, benchmarked, and reproducible data. In addition, increased societal urgency to transition to clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas concentrations has incentivized interdisciplinary, convergent, and translational approaches to catalysis research in recent years. Research engineers and scientists with expertise cutting broadly across materials science, chemical synthesis, interfacial science, spectroscopy, and methods of data science and computational simulation, all bring diverse and important perspectives to catalysis research, but often with little awareness of the complexity of catalytic systems, especially in their working environment. As has already occurred in other scientific fields, there has been growing recognition and consensus in the heterogeneous catalysis research community that mechanisms are needed to improve the rigor and reproducibility (R&R) of experimental measurements, to ensure alignment of the broader research community with a common core of best practices specific to the realization of high-quality catalysis research. Similarly, the field is moving rapidly toward computationally informed and data science-driven catalyst design, but the success of implementing such predictive tools hinges on model training and validation rooted in rigorously obtained and reproducible experimental data that are benchmarked to common specifications.

As such, this workshop was convened to prepare a report summarizing best practices for reporting data and performing experiments that researchers can use to benchmark, validate, and reproduce data in specific sub-fields of thermal, heterogeneous catalysis. Additionally, we discussed recommendations for future actions that may improve R&R in this field. The workshop organizers and participants include a diverse range of catalysis researchers from various employment sectors (e.g., academia, industry, national laboratory), institutional mission and resources (e.g., PhD-granting research universities, non-PhD-granting teaching universities), career stage (e.g., early, mid and late-career), technical expertise, and demographic background. This diverse group was involved in the discussion of workshop agenda items, writing this report, and discussing possible future action items for the community to consider, which helped ensure that a broad range of perspectives were captured in the description of the problems at hand and the creation of actionable solutions that may be effectively adopted by the diverse practitioners in catalysis research. Importantly, this group of workshop participants also included very early career researchers (e.g., senior PhD students, postdoctoral scholars) who will become the next generation of scientific leaders in various sectors, thus capturing emerging perspectives of newcomers to the field to shape its future while positively impacting the development of its future workforce.

We envision that this effort will help advance the field of catalysis science by improving the rigor and reproducibility of experimental data collected by current researchers and future newcomers to the field, which is of broad importance to health and vitality of any scientific discipline. Therefore, best practices identified in this endeavor for thermal heterogeneous catalysis can be translated to such efforts in other areas of catalysis and other scientific fields involving the study of materials, and vice versa. We also envision this to be an ongoing effort, with future workshops that are convened to discuss issues of rigor and reproducibility on technical topics that were unable to be covered in this workshop due to its scope limitations, and as emerging methods and materials become more prevalent in the research community.


Addressing Rigor and Reproducibility in Thermal, Heterogeneous Catalysis - v 1_00.pdf