API for URL-based Queries

Last updated 4 months ago

The BETYdb URL-based API allows users to fetch and query data.

The BETYdb Application Programming Interface (API) is a means of obtaining search or query results in CSV, JSON, or XML format using URL-based queries. These queries may be entered into a Web browser or called from a scripting language such as Bash, R, MATLAB, or Python. BETYdb strives to be a RESTful Web service, and nearly all the tables in BETYdb and the individual rows within those tables are treated as Web-addressable resources having their own URL.

Note that although the Web browser-based GUI interface to BETYdb allows for the full complement of common HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE), at this point, for most of these resources, the API supports only the GET method. The one exception is the API for inserting new traits into the traits table, which uses the POST method. This document treats only the GET methods of the API. For information about POST-ing new data via the API, see Inserting New Traits Via the API in the BETYdb Data Entry Workflow manual.

While all of the GET requests provided by the API may be used inside a Web browser, when we think of an API, we usually have some sort of programmatic interaction in mind. The primary advantage of this approach is the ability to submit complex queries that access information without having to do so through the GUI interface: text-based queries can be recorded with more precision than can instructions for interacting with the GUI interface, and they can be constructed automatically within a scripting language. Entering the URL of an API-provided resource into a Web browser's address box, however, is a convenient way to get a feel for how the API works, what information it makes available, and how that information is presented.

Versions

API keys

Using an API key allows access to data without having to log in.

If you do not already have an API key, you may create one by logging in to the BETYdb Web site, selecting "Users" from the Data menu, and clicking the "key" button in the Action column of the row containing your name. (Unless you are an administrator, you will only see one row—the one containing your name.) A new key will then be displayed in the "Apikey" column. You may also use this same method to change your API key if your existing one should become compromised.

To use an API key, simply append ?key=<your API key> to the end of the URL. If the URL already contains a query string, append &key=<your API key> instead.

Your API key is unique to you and will have the same data-access permissions as those associated with your account.

To view your API key at any time, log in to the BETYdb Web interface, go to the users list page, and look in the Apikey column.

For administrators

API keys are automatically generated for new users, but users who signed up on previous releases may not have an API key in the database. To create an API key for every existing user who doesn't already have one, run the command

rake bety:make_keys

in the Rails root directory. (You may need to prepend bundle exec to this command, especially if you are not using a Ruby version manager.)

This command will not change existing keys. If for some reason you want to change the keys of all existing users, you must first log in to the BETYdb database and update the users table, setting the apikey column value for every user to null. After this, run the rake command to give all users a new API key.