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User Cookiecutter: Setting Up An AutoRA Workflow And Online Experiment

To establish a complete online closed-loop system for AutoRA, there are two key components that need to be configured:

  1. AutoRA Workflow:
  2. This workflow can be executed locally, on a server, or using Cylc. It must have the ability to communicate with a website, allowing for writing of new conditions and reading of observation data.
  3. The AutoRA workflow can be customized by adding or removing AutoRA functions, such as AutoRA experimentalists or AutoRA theorists. It relies on an AutoRA Experimentation Manager to facilitate communication.

  4. Website To Conduct Experiment:

  5. The website serves as a platform for conducting experiments and needs to be compatible with the AutoRA workflow.
  6. In this setup, we use a Node application hosted on Firebase to serve the website.

To simplify the setup process, we provide a cookiecutter template that generates a project folder containing the following two directories:

  1. Researcher Hub:
  2. This directory includes a basic example of an AutoRA workflow.
  3. You can modify this example by adding or removing AutoRA functions to create a customized AutoRA workflow that suits your requirements.
  4. The workflow incorporates an AutoRA Experimentation Manager, enabling communication with the website.
  5. The workflow also incorporates an AutoRA Recruitment Manager, enabling recruitment of participants via Prolific.

  6. Testing Zone:

  7. This directory provides a basic example of a website served with Firebase, ensuring compatibility with the AutoRA workflow.

The following steps outline how to set up the project:

Set Up The Project On The Firebase Website

To serve a website via Firebase and use the Firestore Database, it is necessary to set up a Firebase project. Follow the steps below to get started:

Google Account

You'll need a Google account to use Firebase.

Firebase Project

While logged in into your Google account head over to the Firebase website.

  • Click on Get started.
  • Click on the plus sign with add project.
  • Name your project and click on continue.
  • For now, we don't use Google Analytics (you can leave it enabled if you want to use it in the future).
  • Click 'Create project'.

Adding A Webapp To Your Project

In your project console (within the Firebase project), we now want to add an app to our project

  • Click on ``.
  • Name the app (can be the same as your project) and check Also set up Firebase Hosting.
  • Click on Register app.
  • Click on Next.
  • Click on Next.
  • Click on Continue to console.

Adding Firestore To Your Project

In the left-hand menu of your project console, click on Build and select Firestore Database

  • Click on Create database.
  • Leave Start in production mode selected and click on Next.
  • Select a Firestore location and click on Enable.
  • To check if everything is set up correctly, click on the gear symbol next to the Project overview in the menu and select Project settings.
  • Under Default GCP resource location you should see the Firestore location that you selected.
  • If you don't see the location, select one now (click on the pencil-symbol and then on Done in the pop-up window).

Set Up The Project On Your System

To set up an online AutoRA closed-loop you need both Python and Node.

You should also consider using an IDE. We recommend:

  • PyCharm. This is a Python-specific integrated development environment which comes with useful tools for changing the structure of Python code, running tests, etc.
  • Visual Studio Code. This is a powerful general text editor with plugins to support Python development.

Install Python


All contributions to the AutoRA core packages work under Python 3.8, so we recommend using that version for creating an AutoRA workflow.

You can install Python:

If successful, you should be able to run Python in your terminal like this:


...and see some output like this:

Python 3.11.3 (main, Apr  7 2023, 20:13:31) [Clang 14.0.0 (clang-1400.0.29.202)] on darwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

Installing Node


The Firebase website we set up requires Node to be installed on your system.

You can find information about how to install on the official Node website

Create A Virtual Environment


We recommend setting up your virtual environment using a manager like venv, which creates isolated Python environments. Other environment managers, such as virtualenv, pipenv, virtualenvwrapper, hatch, poetry, are available and will likely work, but will have different syntax to the syntax shown here.

In the <project directory>, run the following command to create a new virtual environment in the .venv directory

python3 -m "venv" ".venv" 


If you have multiple Python versions installed on your system, it may be necessary to specify the version when creating a virtual environment. For example, run the following command to specify version 3.8 for the virtual environment.

python3.8 -m "venv" ".venv" 

Activate it by running

source ".venv/bin/activate"

Install Dependencies

Upgrade pip:

pip install --upgrade pip

Install the current project development dependencies:

pip install cookiecutter

Run Cookiecutter

Run cookiecutter and select the basic option.


If you select advanced, there are more features, but the instructions here focus on the basic template.


This command will result in two directories, researcher_hub and testing_zone, which are described next.

Researcher Hub: AutoRA Workflow

The researcher_hub contains a basic template for an AutoRA workflow.

To install the necessary dependencies, move to directory to the and install the requirements.

Move to the researcher_hub directory:

cd researcher_hub

Install the requirements:

pip install -r requirements.txt

You can find documentation for all parts of the AutoRA workflow in the User Guide

Testing Zone: Firebase Website

The testing_zone contains a basic template for a website that is compatible with the AutoRA Experimentation Manager for Firebase and the AutoRA Recruitment Manager for Prolific.

You can find documentation on how to connect the website to an AutoRA workflow, as well as how to build and deploy it in the documentation for Firebase Integration