User Guide


DREAMTools provides scoring functions that were used in past DREAM challenges. In order to use those scoring functions, users may use an executable called dreamtools (See The dreamtools executable section) while developers may use the Python library directly in their own pipelines.

The main idea behind DREAMTools is to provide to researchers the scoring functions that were used in past DREAM challenges. Usually, researchers would already know the topic / purposes of a challenge but information can also be retrieved with DREAMTools as shown here below. Then, one would need to design a new methodology to solve the challenge. The difficulties then may be to (i) retrieve a template, (ii) fill the template with a prediction and (iii) to score the prediction to evaluate the performance of the prediction.

DREAMTools will help researchers in retrieving information and templates about a challenge, and apply the relevant scoring function to evaluate their algoritm(s).

What is the data format, what is the challenge about ?

Each data format is different and each challenge is complex and specific to a biological problem so we will not explain each challenge or template format in this documentation. However, links and information provided within DREAMTools should give enough help to start with.

There were tens of challenges (see during the last years and we will refer to a given challenge by a nickname (e.g., D6C3 stands for challenge 3 in DREAM version 6). Finally, note that some challenges have sub-challenges whose names must be provided.

For example, to retrieve information about the D9C1 challenge (Gene essentiality), Python users can type these commands:

from dreamtools import D9C1
challenge = D9C1(download=False)

Or, using the dreamtools standalone application, one can type in a shell the following command:

dreamtools --challenge D9C1 --info

This should open the Synapse web page of the challenge where description, template, leaderboards are stored altogether.

Synapse login

Before giving more details about DREAMtools, we would like to emphasize that the software is closely linked to Synapse where challenges are described and where data required for the scoring may be stored.


Consequently, users will need to sign up to Synapse website:

Once you have a Synapse login, you can also create a local authentication by creating a file called .synapseConfig in your home directory and add this content:

username: email
password: password

where the email and password are those you have created/obtained from Synapse . This will avoid you to have to enter the login/password each time DREAMTools tries to connect to Synapse.

Notes about data restrictions

DREAMTools provides functions to obtain the template and gold standard(s) used in a given challenge. Some challenge have restrictions of data access and require the user to accept conditions of use. Such data are stored on Synapse and the first time you run a challenge within DREAMTools, files may be downloaded and you may be asked to accept some conditions of use.

The dreamtools executable

For users, DREAMTools package provides an executable called dreamtools, which should be installed automatically. To check that it is installed properly, type this command in a shell:

dreamtools --help

this will give you some basic help about the usage. Let us seee how it works. First, let us choose a challenge. Challenge are named DXCY where X starts from number 2 to indicate the DREAM session. Y indicates the challenge itself.

dreamtools --challenge D5C1

This will raise an error because there is no submission provided. A template/example can be retrieved as follows:

dreamtools --challenge D5C1 --download-template

This prints the path to a template, which can now be scored (even though the template contains dummy data in general):

dreamtools --challenge D5C1 --filename <path2template>

similarly one can download the gold standard. This is a good way to check the scoring function since scoring the gold standard with itself should give a perfect score:

dreamtools --challenge D5C1 --download-gold-standard
dreamtools --challenge D5C1 --filename <path2gold>

If there are sub challenges like in D9C1 challenge, a sub-challenge name must be provided. If one type:

dreamtools --challenge D9C1 --download-template

an error message will tell you that the sub-challenge name is missing together their names. Here, the names are shown to be sc1, sc2, sc3:

dreamtools --challenge D9C1 --download-template --sub-challenge sc1


An alternative to the standalone application is to use DREAMTools inside a Python script. Similarly to what we have seen in the previous section, you can download templates, gold standards and scoring functions. All challenges are based upon a single Challenge class and use a very similar syntax:

# import a challenge
from dreamtools import D5C1
# create the challenge structure
c = D5C1()

# figure out the path to a template
filename = c.download_template()

# score that template
results = c.score(filename)

# print the results

If you have sub challenges, they can be found in the attribute called sub_challenges:

from dreamtools import D9C1
c = D9C1()
subname = c.sub_challenges[0]   # get only the first sub challenge name
filename = c.download_template(subname)
results = c.score(filename, subname)

Getting information about a challenge

From the Python command line, for a given challenge, you can get a brief summary and the Synapse page identifier:

from dreamtools import D9C1
s = D9C1(download=False)  # Needed if you do not have a Synapse account

You can also open the Synapse web page corresponding to that challenge:


Or use the dreamtools executable:

dreamtools --challenge D9C1 --info
dreamtools --challenge D9C1 --onweb

Where to get more help or examples ?

All dream challenges have their own Synapse page and should be used as the official references. Especially if you want to contact the organisers of a challenge.

However, you may also get brief help and information from other sources:

  1. From the DREAMTools paper on F1000.
  2. The References of DREAMTools itself
  3. Notebooks provided in DREAMTools. There are only a few at the moment but contributions are welcome and will be added.
  4. Notebooks