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A tool for translating between scientific data structures

Project description



Open-source datasets often aren't organized according to a standard directory structure. This means that, if your analysis code expects a particular format, either you have to create a new version of it that loops through files differently or you have to manually move and rename the files to match your code's expected format. dastr automates the latter approach.

How to use

dastr can be installed through pip (pip install dastr).

There are 3 steps to convert between directory structures: (1) reading, (2) translating, and (3) writing.

1. Reading

There will generally be metadata encoded in a dataset's folder and file names. For example, maybe each participant's data are stored in a separate folder and these are called "p01", "p02", etc. Maybe it's a longitudinal EEG study and within each participant-specific folder are files called "pre.edf" and "post.edf".

dastr uses regular expression captures (with Python's re library) to read this data into a table (a list of dicts) where each row (element) is a file and each column (key) is an attribute of that file (for example, participant ID and session).

To read in the data from the above example, you would do the following:

import dastr
data_path = '/path/to/data/'
files =
		("p(.+)", "participant ID"),
		("(.+)\.edf", "session")

The function will start from the folder specified by the path argument and go down from there. The action to take at each level of the directory structure is specified by each elements of the params argument (a list of tuples, the elements of which will be strings). The first element of each tuple will be a regular expression. If there are any captures in the regular expression, they will be recorded as the attributes specified by the remaining elements of the tuple. For example: ("(.+)\.edf", "session") in the above means that, once the program gets to the file /path/to/data/p01/pre.edf it should run something equivalent in this case to:

curr_file["session"] = re.findall("(.+)\.edf", "pre.edf")[0]

If the current file/folder doesn't match the regular expression, this file is skipped. If the tuple is empty, the regular expression defaults to the wildcard character (.). returns a list of dictss with keys attrs and path. path specifies the path to the actual file while attrs contains another dictionary that stores the attributes. I.e., in the above example, files[0]["path"] would be "/path/to/data/p01/pre.edf" while files[0]["attrs"] would be {"participant ID": "01", "session": "pre"}. To print this information as it is being read, set the optional argument disp=True as in the above (or omit this argument to print nothing).

In some cases, this might be all you need. You could use dastr.flatten() to get a new list of dicts with key-value pairs copied from files[:]["attrs"], plus an additional key-value pair specifying the path of the file. This makes perfect input for DictWriter from Python's csv library. The resulting csv table could be read in by your analysis code, point it to each data file, and take its outputs as new columns. Or maybe you don't want to change your analysis code.

2. Translating

Suppose instead of "pre" and "post", you want to call the sessions "01" and "02". The function to use then is dastr.translate():

translation = {
	"session": {
		"pre": "01",
		"post": "02"

translated = dastr.translate(

original = dastr.translate(
	direction="reverse") # Or equivalently "backward", or actually anything other than "forward"

3. Writing

Actually moving the files is very similar to them. The difference is that, instead of reading attributes in using re captures, you're writing them out using string formatting. For example

new_path = "/new/data/path/"
destinations = dastr.write(
		("sub-%s", "participant ID"),
		("sub-%s_ses-%s.edf", "participant ID", "session")])

creates the variable destinations, a list of strings specifying the new locations of the files (though they haven't been deleted from their old locations):


If you did want to delete the old files, you could add the optional argument key="x" to use Python's shutil.move() (by default, key is "c" which uses Python's shutil.copy()). You can also set key to any function that takes old_path, new_path as its arguments, or you can set it to "n" which doesn't touch the files at all (in which case you'd probably also want to set disp=True).

How to use with JSON

To avoid hard-coding the parameters and translations, you can instead specify them in .json files (thanks to Gabi Herman for the suggestion):

Reading and writing with JSON

Instead of running


you would run


Where file.json is formatted in one of 3 ways:

  1. a list of dicts
		"pattern": "p(.+)",
		"attrs": "participant ID"
		"pattern": "(.+)\.edf",
		"attrs": "session"
  1. a dict of lists
	"patterns": [
	"attrs": [
		"participant ID",
  1. a list of lists and strings
	["sub-%s", "participant ID"],
	["sub-%s_ses-%s.edf", "participant ID", "session"]

Translating with JSON

Here all you need to do is copy and paste your hard-coded translation variable into a .json file (replacing single quotes with doubles), and pass the location of this file to dastr.translate:

translated = dastr.translate(

Running dastr.json_to_params wouldn't work here.

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