Importance of feature engineering and database selection in a machine learning model: A case study on carbon crystal structures

Franz M. Rohrhofer, Santanu Saha, Simone Di Cataldo, Bernhard C. Geiger, Wolfgang von der Linden, Lilia Boeri

Drive towards improved performance of machine learning models has led to the creation of complex features representing a database of condensed matter systems. The complex features, however, do not offer an intuitive explanation on which physical attributes do improve the performance. The effect of the database on the performance of the trained model is often neglected. In this work we seek to understand in depth the effect that the choice of features and the properties of the database have on a machine learning application. In our experiments, we consider the complex phase space of carbon as a test case, for which we use a set of simple, human understandable and cheaply computable features for the aim of predicting the total energy of the crystal structure. Our study shows that (i) the performance of the machine learning model varies depending on the set of features and the database, (ii) is not transferable to every structure in the phase space and (iii) depends on how well structures are represented in the database.

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