The Renormalization Scale-Setting Problem in QCD

Preprint number: CP3-Origins-2013-1 and DIAS-2013-1
Authors: Stanley J. Brodsky (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University), Matin Mojaza (SLAC, Stanford University & CP3-Origins, DIAS), and Xing-Gang Wu (Chongqing University)
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A key problem in making precise perturbative QCD predictions is to set the proper renormalization scale of the running coupling. The conventional scale-setting procedure assigns an arbitrary range and an arbitrary systematic error to fixed-order pQCD predictions. In fact, this ad hoc procedure gives results which depend on the choice of the renormalization scheme, and it is in conflict with the standard scale-setting procedure used in QED. Predictions for physical results should be independent of the choice of scheme or other theoretical conventions. We review current ideas and points of view on how to deal with the renormalization scale ambiguity and show how to obtain renormalization scheme- and scale- independent estimates. We begin by introducing the renormalization group (RG) equation and an extended version, which expresses the invariance of physical observables under both the renormalization scheme and scale-parameter transformations. The RG equation provides a convenient way for estimating the scheme- and scale- dependence of a physical process. We then discuss self-consistency requirements of the RG equations, such as reflexivity, symmetry, and transitivity, which must be satisfied by a scale-setting method. Four typical scale setting methods suggested in the literature, i.e., the Fastest Apparent Convergence (FAC) criterion, the Principle of Minimum Sensitivity (PMS), the Brodsky-Lepage-Mackenzie method (BLM), and the Principle of Maximum Conformality (PMC), are introduced. Basic properties and their applications are discussed. We pay particular attention to the PMC, which satisfies all of the requirements of RG invariance. Using the PMC, all non-conformal terms associated with the β-function in the perturbative series are summed into the running coupling, and one obtains a unique, scale-fixed, scheme-independent prediction at any finite order. The PMC provides the principle underlying the BLM method, since it gives the general rule for extending BLM up to any perturbative order; in fact, they are equivalent to each other through the PMC – BLM correspondence principle. Thus, all the features previously observed in the BLM literature are also adaptable to the PMC. The PMC scales and the resulting finite-order PMC predictions are to high accuracy independent of the choice of initial renormalization scale, and thus consistent with RG invariance. The PMC is also consistent with the renormalization scale-setting procedure for QED in the zero-color limit. The use of the PMC thus eliminates a serious systematic scale error in perturbative QCD predictions, greatly improving the precision of empirical tests of the Standard Model and their sensitivity to new physics.