Getting Started

Experimenter.jl is a package that is designed to help you keep track of your experiments and their results. It is built to work with Distributed.jl for parallel writing of results to a SQLite database file.

Opening the database

To get started, first import the library with:

using Experimenter

After this one needs to create a database to store the results:

db = open_db("experiments.db")

One can always supply a given directory for the database as well, for example:

db = open_db("experiments.db", joinpath(pwd(), "results"))

The first call to open_db will check if a file already exists. If the file does not exist, Experimenter.jl will create the file and the schema for the database.

Defining the work we want to process

To run an experiment we need to first define a function which runs our experiment:

# in run.jl
using Random
function run_trial(config::Dict{Symbol,Any}, trial_id)
    results = Dict{Symbol, Any}()
    sigma = config[:sigma]
    N = config[:N]
    seed = config[:seed]
    rng = Random.Xoshiro(seed)
    # Perform some calculation
    results[:distance] = sum(rand(rng) * sigma for _ in 1:N)
    # Must return a Dict{Symbol, Any}, with the data we want to save
    return results

Creating an experiment

Now we can define a configuration for our experiment:

# in a script
config = Dict{Symbol,Any}(
    :N => IterableVariable([10, 20]),
    :seed => IterableVariable([1234, 4321]),
    :sigma => 1.0

This is just a dictionary, with some special wrappers IterableVariable for some of the config values. When we create our experiment, we pass in this configuration and the path to the file with the function to run our experiment:

experiment = Experiment(
    name="Test Experiment",

Examining the trials of an experiment

We can look at the set of trials this experiment will create:

for trial in experiment
# Dict{Symbol, Any}(:N => 10, :sigma => 1.0, :seed => 1234)
# Dict{Symbol, Any}(:N => 20, :sigma => 1.0, :seed => 1234)
# Dict{Symbol, Any}(:N => 10, :sigma => 1.0, :seed => 4321)
# Dict{Symbol, Any}(:N => 20, :sigma => 1.0, :seed => 4321)

or, alternatively:

trials = collect(experiment)

There are multiple trials in this experiment as we used an IterableVariable wrapper, which says that we want to run a grid search over these specific variables.

Executing an experiment

To execute our experiment, we use the @execute macro. To execute the experiment serially:

@execute experiment db SerialMode

Instead of SerialMode, we can use ThreadedMode to execute via Threads.@threads, or use DistributedMode to execute via a pmap and run across different workers.

Getting the results

Once the experiments are completed, we can run:

trials = get_trials_by_name(db, "Test Experiment");

This will return a Vector{Trial}, where Trial has a results field which is the dictionary we returned from the run_trial function. To get the results we write:

results = [t.results for t in trials]

Re-running failed trials

If a trial did not finish, then the results field will be missing. Whenever we run the @execute macro, it will skip any trial that already has results, and only run the next trials. Therefore

@execute experiment db SerialMode

will not run any more trials, as they have already been completed. However, if the execution stopped (for example killed by the SLURM scheduler due to wall time), then it will only run the trials that have not been completed.

Saving part way

If your trials take a long time to finish and may be cancelled during their run, you can always implement a way to save a Snapshot, which allows you to save data you need to restore a trial part way through running. The API for this has not yet been documented, but examples can be seen in the unit tests.

What is an Experiment?

An experiment sets up a configuration that specifies (by default) a grid search over variables. If none of the special classes such as IterableVariable, LinearVariable, LogLinearVariable etc are used as values in the configuration dictionary, this will specify only a single trial. However, if these special types are used, an experiment will have multiple trials, whose configurations are created via a grid search over the special AbstractVariables provided, with each of these values being replaced by a single element in these iterables.

As an example the following configuration:

config = Dict{Symbol, Any}(
    :a => IterableVariable(["a", "b"]),
    :b => LinearVariable(1, 4, 5),
    :c => "constant value"

Since the first two parts are marked with a type of AbstractVariable (or concrete type of), these will form our grid search. The actual configurations will look like the following code:

for a in ["a", "b"]
    for b in LinRange(1, 4, 5)
        trial_config = Dict{Symbol, Any}(
            :a => a,
            :b => b,
            :c => "constant value"

A matched variable will not form part of the grid, but works as follows:

matched = rand(2*5)
i = 1
for a in ["a", "b"]
    for b in LinRange(1, 4, 5)
        trial_config = Dict{Symbol, Any}(
            :a => a,
            :b => b,
            :c => "constant value",
            :matched => matched[i]
        i += 1

The matched variable must have as many entries as there are in the grid search.