The predictive capabilities of machine learning (ML) models used in materials discovery are typically measured using simple statistics such as the root-mean-square error (RMSE) or the coefficient of determination (r2) between ML-predicted materials property values and their known values. A tempting assumption is that models with low error should be effective at guiding materials discovery, and conversely, models with high error should give poor discovery performance. However, we observe that no clear connection exists between a “static” quantity averaged across an entire training set, such as RMSE, and an ML property model’s ability to dynamically guide the iterative (and often extrapolative) discovery of novel materials with targeted properties. In this work, we simulate a sequential learning (SL)-guided materials discovery process and demonstrate a decoupling between traditional model error metrics and model performance in guiding materials discoveries. We show that model performance in materials discovery depends strongly on (1) the target range within the property distribution (e.g., whether a 1st or 10th decile material is desired); (2) the incorporation of uncertainty estimates in the SL acquisition function; (3) whether the scientist is interested in one discovery or many targets; and (4) how many SL iterations are allowed. To overcome the limitations of static metrics and robustly capture SL performance, we recommend metrics such as Discovery Yield (DY), a measure of how many high-performing materials were discovered during SL, and Discovery Probability (DP), a measure of likelihood of discovering high-performing materials at any point in the SL process.
Christopher K. H. Borg, Eric S. Muckley, Clara Nyby, James E. Saal, Logan Ward, Apurva Mehta, Bryce Meredig