Validation of Molecular Simulation: An Overview of Issues

Wilfred F. van Gunsteren, Xavier Daura, Niels Hansen, Alan E. Mark, Chris Oostenbrink, Sereina Riniker, Lorna J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim. Computer simulation of molecular systems enables structure–energy–function relationships of molecular processes to be described at the sub-atomic, atomic, supra-atomic, or supra-molecular level. To interpret results of such simulations appropriately, the quality of the calculated properties must be evaluated. This depends on the way the simulations are performed and on the way they are validated by comparison to values Qexp of experimentally observable quantities Q. One must consider 1) the accuracy of Qexp, 2) the accuracy of the function Q(rN) used to calculate a Q-value based on a molecular configuration rN of N particles, 3) the sensitivity of the function Q(rN) to the configuration rN, 4) the relative time scales of the simulation and experiment, 5) the degree to which the calculated and experimental properties are equivalent, and 6) the degree to which the system simulated matches the experimental conditions. Experimental data is limited in scope and generally corresponds to averages over both time and space. A critical analysis of the various factors influencing the apparent degree of (dis)agreement between simulations and experiment is presented and illustrated using examples from the literature. What can be done to enhance the validation of molecular simulation is also discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)884-902
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2018


  • computer chemistry
  • experimental data
  • molecular dynamics simulation
  • Monte Carlo simulation
  • pseudo-validation


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