Uncertainty quantification in thermochemistry, benchmarking electronic structure computations, and Active Thermochemical Tables



The accepted convention for expressing uncertainties of thermochemical quantities, followed by virtually all thermochemical tabulations, is to provide earnest estimates of 95% confidence intervals. Theoretical studies frequently ignore this convention, and, instead, provide the mean absolute deviation, which underestimates the recommended thermochemical uncertainty by a factor of 2.5–3.5 or even more, and thus may vitiate claims that “chemical accuracy” (ability to predict thermochemical quantities within ±1 kcal/mol) has been achieved. Furthermore, copropagating underestimated uncertainties for theoretical values with uncertainties found in thermochemical compilations produces invalid uncertainties for reaction enthalpies. Two groups of procedures for determining the accuracy of computed thermochemical quantities are outlined: one relying on estimates that are based on experience, the other on benchmarking. Benchmarking procedures require a source of thermochemical data that is as accurate and reliable as possible. The role of Active Thermochemical Tables in benchmarking state-of-the-art electronic structure methods is discussed. Published 2014. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA. International Journal of Quantum Chemistry published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.