User documentation

Welcome to the Glowing Bear user documentation. If you are a new user looking for a short introduction, you can visit our quick start guide.

More detailed information can be found below.

Table of contents

Left panel

The left panel contains information about the current data selection, and the ontology tree and queries in the database.

Current data selection

This shows the result of the users actions during data selection. When opening or refreshing the page there will be no subjects or observations selected, the counts will be 0. While interacting with the query builder in the right panel, this number changes to ... to indicate Glowing Bear does not know the accurate numbers anymore.

After successfully selecting data, by going through Step 1 and Step 2 of Data Selection, and pressing the Update buttons, it will show the number of subjects and observations that match the given criteria. Also, the tree nodes that can be used for Analysis and Export will be added to this panel.

The Clear all button in this panel resets the criteria specified in all steps of Data Selection, allowing you to start over.

Ontology tree

The ontology tree shows a hierarchy of data items that are available for your user. It contains concepts and studies and the number of subjects that have information for them. This tree is created when the data set is loaded into the database and the data items are not necessarily limited to existing terminologies.

Each node in the tree is either a folder, or one of the node types listed below. The number of subjects that have at least one observation for a specific variable is appended to the label. The nodes in the tree can be dragged into the right panel to compose criteria that define the group of subjects. Dragging one of the nodes automatically adds a criterion to the builder for the concept and/or study that is associated with this tree node. The concept criteria can be further specified to more precisely compose your queries.

More details on subject selection can be found further down.

For some nodes, additional information is available when hovering over the label. This is indicated by an ⓘ information icon.

The search box in this windows allows you to search the tree. Nodes that match the search string will be highlighted and opened for convenient access. Note that if there are too many search results, not all nodes will be opened.


Queries you’ve created previously can be seen and restored from here. This is convenient if you frequently require information about the same (updated) group of subjects.

If you have previously downloaded a query, or received a query file from a colleague, you can use the Import button to add this query to your list of saved queries. A query file is specially formatted and is not meant to be created or edited by hand.

Query subscription

Note: this feature is not always made available to users.

By subscribing yourself to a query you will receive an email when there are new subjects found for the specified criteria. Any time new data is loaded, Glowing Bear will check whether you have access to any of the new subjects and notify about the changes.

Right Panel

The right panel provides the main user functionality to interact with the database: Data selection, Analysis, and Export.

Data selection

Once you are familiar with Glowing Bear you would start here to select criteria to create the data set that you want to use within the application. In the Data Selection panel various subject counts are shown to you. It is important to know that these counts reflect that particular part of the data selection. After completing these steps and requesting updated counts, the correct counts will be shown in the current data selection panel.

Step 1: Select a group of subjects

Glowing Bear Step 1 image

By dragging nodes from the tree on the left into Step 1 of data selection you can select the group of subjects you are interested in. Dragging tree nodes automatically adds constraints for a concept and/or study, e.g. Subjects with any value for '/Demographics/Gender'. Alternatively, you can click on the empty add criterion-box and search the list of possible constraints:

Observation level versus subject level constraints

The Glowing Bear query builder is flexible in the different constraint composition types it supports. In order to fully understand the query that is composed, you should know that every observation is not simply a field in a flat text file where the row indicates the subject and the column the variable. Each observation has in fact a number of dimensions that provide additional context to this particular value. The most common dimensions are: patient, concept, study, trial visit, and start date.

In the query builder it is both possible to create criteria that will apply to a single observation, and to a subject. For example, Subjects with the value 'Male' for the '/Demographics/Gender' only makes sense if both Male and /Demographics/Gender apply to the same observation. On the other hand, if we are looking for males with an elevated heart rate, you want to look for subjects for which the database has at least two observations, (1) one that says they are male, and (2) one that indicates they have an elevated heart rate.

Glowing Bear clearly distinguishes the two. Any criteria within a single query box apply to the observation level and anything that combines the query boxes applies to the subject level.

Inclusion and Exclusion

In Glowing Bear you can specify both Inclusion criteria and Exclusion criteria. This allows you to revert inclusion based on any criteria. Moreover, it is not possible to select anyone you do not have any information on.

Although both function mostly the same. One difference is in the counts that are shown. The included subject count represents the total number of subjects selected from the database, where the excluded subject count only represents subjects that were initially included.

Note: adding no criteria in Inclusion criteria selects everyone in the database.

Import subject list

Example of a file 'subject_list.txt' that can be used to select these 8 subjects by uploading it into Step 1 of the query builder. The file is required to contain 1 identifier per row and its name should end with a .txt file extension. Glowing Bear will try to select all subjects, but will ignore subjects it cannot find.


Step 2: Select variable of interest

Glowing Bear Step 2 image

After selecting a group of subjects in Step 1 you can select the variables of interest by checking the nodes in the show tree. You can update the counts by pressing the Update button on the right. That will also update the Current data selection on the left and allow you to use the selection you’ve made in the rest of the application.

The Update button has two purposes in this panel. By pressing it a first time you can limit the size of the tree, by removing any variables that do no have any information about your selected group of subjects. After making a selection, the button can be used to get the actual number of selected observations and subjects. The number of selected subjects might change during Step 2, if the variables you select do not have information on all subjects you have selected in Step 1.

Import criteria

Note: the Import criteria button can currently only be used in specific cases and is not meant for general use.

Step 3: Data table

The internal data model for Glowing Bear is not suitable for representation in rows and columns based systems like Excel, without first specifying how to reduce the dimensionality of the longitudinal properties of the data. This step not only allows you to specify the format of the selected data, but you can also directly view it.

You can use the data table by first retrieving all dimensions that apply to your selected data, by pressing the Update button. These dimensions will all be shown in the dimension director. The two lists determine whether dimensions will show in the horizontal or vertical axis of the table. You can move dimensions between the two list and change the order based on what your preferred view on the data is.

In this simple example we have all applicable dimensions in the vertical axis on the left and in the right we have the concept dimension in the horizontal axis.

After making changes to the dimension director, you need to press Update to retrieve your updated view on the data. This view will also be stored along side your current data selection so that the export you make is of same shape.

Note: dimensions other than the standard dimensions cannot be moved to the vertical axis currently.


Glowing Bear Analysis image

The Analysis tab now presents you a cross table functionality. You can drag any categorical variables from the Current data selection panel into the vertical and horizontal drop zone to create a cross table with subject counts.

Creating the cross table with any other node type is currently not supported.


Glowing Bear Export image

The Export tab allows you to specify a name. This name has to be unique across the entire application not just for your user account. After choosing a name and pressing Create export, Glowing Bear will create a downloadable .zip file with all the data selected during data selection.

Included in the export is the main data file, called data.tsv and an additional file for each dimension that applies to this particular data set. The main data file is shaped in the way you have configured the data table during Step 3 of data selection, otherwise the default representation is used. The additional files contain the information known about each dimension element in your data set.


Common terms explained:

Friends of Glowing Bear

transmart components overview

In a typical deployment you use KeyCloak to manage user accounts and access rights to both Glowing Bear and tranSMART. The image above quickly details the role of these three components.

KeyCloak configuration

This documentation will explain for an admin how to create a user, define roles needed to grant access, assign roles to grant access, set password policies and look at the event logs.

Note: The official KeyCloak documentation is available here and for a server admin here.

Studies and user access

In tranSMART all data is associated with a study and all user access permissions are associated with a specific study. A user can be assigned one of two study access levels to a private study:

Alternatively, it is possible for a study to be added to the database as a public study, this means anyone with access to tranSMART has measurement access to its data.

A user with the role ROLE_ADMIN is able to access studies as if they were public. This user is also able to perform administrative requests necessary after data loading or after the server application restarts.

Assigning users to study roles

This is for KeyCloak administrators only!

Creating a study role

In order to give users access to studies in tranSMART, you should first create the role according to the convention that tranSMART requires. A role name should combine the study identifier and access level, separated by the pipe | symbol, ie. <STUDY_ID>|<ACCESS_LEVEL>.

To add a role go to Clients under the Configure option in the menu.

KeyCloak Clients

Next click on the client to which the role should be added, in this case the transmart-client. In the client configuration window go to the Roles tab near the top of the screen. Click Add Role at the top right of the table displayed on screen.

KeyCloak Roles

Define the role name according to the convention mentioned above. Here we define the measurement access level role for the GSE8581 study by creating the role GSE8581|MEASUREMENTS. The description is not used outside of the KeyCloak interface and can be left empty.

KeyCloak Role add

The new role is now added to the list of possible roles that can be assigned to users.

Note: these roles can be programmatically created by the Python client.

Add role to user

To add a user to a role go to Users in the left panel, then select the users you want to give permission and open the Role Mappings tab. In the section Client Roles select transmart-client and give this user the assigned role.

KeyCloak Role assign

Python client for programmatic access

Because Glowing Bear connects to tranSMART exclusively via a publicly available API, it is also possible to import data directly into your analytical environment.

A Python client for the API can be found here.