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This system is responsible for managing the schema of OpenTrials warehouse database and collecting data to populate it.


Collectors are fully compatible with Python2.7.

We use PostgreSQL for our database and Alembic for migrations.

Collectors are deployed and run in production with DockerCloud.


The system's collectors are independent python modules that share the following signature:

def collect(conf, conn, *args):

Where arguments are:

  • conf - config dict
  • conn - connections dict
  • args - collector arguments

To run a collector from command line:

$ make start <name> [<args>]

This code will trigger collectors.<name>.collect(conf, conn, *args) call.

NOTE: Most collectors need date_from and date_to arguments that define a time range from which we want to extract resources. For example:

$ make start nct 2013-11-31 2013-12-01

To check if that is the case, see the collect function of the collector you are interested in.

Scraping Collectors

Many collectors are scrapers. Scraping is based on Scrapy framework. Here is an example of how to use Scrapy in the collect function:

from scrapy.crawler import CrawlerProcess
from .spider import <name>Spider

def collect(conf, conn, <args>):
    process = CrawlerProcess(conf)
    process.crawl(<name>Spider, conn=conn, <args>)

For more details check the tutorial How to Write a Collector using Scrapy

Working with the database

The folder collectors/base contains multiple reusable components and helpers including the base class for a database record and the base class for a record's field. Each collector that has a corresponding table in the warehouse database has to define the schema for that table in a class that inherits from the base class for record.

For example the following class defines the schema for table colors. This table has 2 fields of type Text, one of which is a primary key:

class ColorRecord(base.Record):
    table = 'colors'

    # Fields

    id = Text(primary_key=True)
    color = Text()

To see how this connects to the other parts of the collector check the How to Write a Collector tutorial.

Altering the database schema

  1. Define the table/field in the collector's record class as explained above.
  2. Create a migration for it (more details in Alembic docs).