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Ingest API

The Ingestion Service provides a programmatic API for submitting data to the HCA DCP. The Ingest API could be used, for example, to enable integration with existing LIMS software. Using the Ingest API requires authentication and contacting the Ingestion Service team at data-help@humancellatlas.org.


GitHub Repository: Ingest Central (ingest-central)
GitHub Repository: Ingest API (ingest-broker-api)
HAL Browser for the Ingest API

Ingest Broker Development

We envisage that Brokers will expose those parts of the Ingest API for which it makes sense for a Submitter to call directly (e.g. data file upload). Brokers may therefore expose REST API functions to perform:

  • List / view Metadata Schemas.
  • Start / submit / cancel a submission.
  • Upload / reupload JSON Metadata Files.
  • Get state of a submission, including metadata and data validation.

Data Submission Broker

All data that are made available for the Human Cell Atlas first go through the process of ingestion through the Ingest API. Submission brokers take care of storing, processing, and, if needed, converting submissions to ensure that data are interoperable. A submission refers to a collection of scientific files and the metadata about them contributed to the HCA by scientific teams around the world.


In order to use the services through the API, the client must first obtain an authentication token through the authentication broker. The details for acquiring an auth token will be provided in the future. For now, the authentication token will be referred to as $AUTH_TOKEN in the examples.

API Discovery

The Ingest API is mainly hypermedia driven using Hypermedia as the Engine of Application State (HATEOAS). For example, querying the API origin at http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org:

curl -H "Accept: application/json" http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org

returns an embedded _links JSON map that contains links to important API endpoints. One such endpoint is the submissions endpoint in /submissionEnvelopes.

Submission Process

The following steps define the ingestion process through the Ingest platform:

  1. Create submission envelope
  2. Add metadata to the submission envelope
  3. Submit the envelope

Create Submission Envelope

To create a new submission envelope the client must send a HTTP POST request to the submission endpoint with an empty JSON.

curl -X POST \
     -H "Authorization: Bearer $AUTH_TOKEN" \
     -H "Content-type: application/json" \
     -d {} \

This will return details of the new submission envelope that looks like the following:

  "submissionDate" : "2018-10-19T13:18:01.108Z",
  "updateDate" : "2018-10-19T13:20:35.589Z",
  "user" : "...",
  "lastModifiedUser" : "anonymousUser",
  "uuid" : {
    "uuid" : "d2e8ccd7-6987-4b86-8eeb-188aeaf9ef7b"
  "events" : [ ],
  "stagingDetails" : {...},
  "submissionState" : "Invalid",
  "triggersAnalysis" : true,
  "submissionErrors" : [ ],
  "open" : true,
  "_links" : {...}

The _links property contains a map of service discoverable endpoints associated with the create submission envelope. The self link refers back to the submission envelope itself. Some of the links in this map also come with human readable titles that help describe their respective service:

"_links" : {
    "self" : {
      "href" : "http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org/submissionEnvelopes/5b4dec891edf300007b4b17b"
    "submissionEnvelope" : {
      "href" : "http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org/submissionEnvelopes/5b4dec891edf300007b4b17b",
      "title" : "A single submission envelope"
    "biomaterials" : {
      "href" : "http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org/submissionEnvelopes/5b4dec891edf300007b4b17b/biomaterials"
    "processes" : {
      "href" : "http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org/submissionEnvelopes/5b4dec891edf300007b4b17b/processes"
    "files" : {
      "href" : "http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org/submissionEnvelopes/5b4dec891edf300007b4b17b/files",
      "title" : "Access or create, within a submission envelope, a new assay"
    "projects" : {
      "href" : "http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org/submissionEnvelopes/5b4dec891edf300007b4b17b/projects",
      "title" : "Access or create projects. Creation can only be done inside a submission envelope"
    "protocols" : {
      "href" : "http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org/submissionEnvelopes/5b4dec891edf300007b4b17b/protocols",
      "title" : "Access or create protocols"

As the items in the links map are structured JSON objects, to refer to the actual link, they should be extracted from the nested href property. For example to retrieve the link to the submission envelope itself, the property chain is _links.self.href.

Add Metadata to a Submission Envelope

Once the submission envelope is ready, metadata can be added to it through the respective endpoints for the particular type of metadata. The sample links shown previously in the submission creation section demonstrate this. Sending a HTTP GET request to any of the links will return a list of metadata of the given type. For example, if a GET request is sent to the http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org/submissionEnvelopes/5b4dec891edf300007b4b17b/biomaterials, a list of biomaterial metadata contained in the submission envelope 5b4dec891edf300007b4b17b will be returned.

To add metadata to the submission envelope, the client must send a HTTP POST request to the endpoint with the metadata content in JSON format. For example, to add biomaterial metadata to the endpoint above, the following curl command can be executed:

curl -X POST \
  http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org/submissionEnvelopes/5b4dec891edf300007b4b17b/biomaterials \
  -H 'content-type: application/json' \
  -d '{
    "describedBy" : "https://schema.humancellatlas.org/type/biomaterial/10.1.1/donor_organism",
    "schema_version" : "10.1.1",
    "schema_type" : "biomaterial",
    "biomaterial_core" : {
      "biomaterial_id" : "DEMO-donor_MGH30",
      "biomaterial_name" : "DEMO donor MGH30",
      "ncbi_taxon_id" : [ 9606 ],
      "describedBy" : "https://schema.humancellatlas.org/core/biomaterial/7.0.3/biomaterial_core",
      "schema_version" : "7.0.3"
    "genus_species" : [ {
      "describedBy" : "https://schema.humancellatlas.org/module/ontology/5.0.0/species_ontology",
      "text" : "Homo sapiens"
    } ],
    "is_living" : true,
    "biological_sex" : "unknown"

The example metadata content in this document may be out of date. The updated metadata schema can be found in schema.humancellatlas.org.

Files Endpoint

For most of the metadata types, adding metadata is mostly a matter of sending a HTTP POST to the proper endpoints as shown previously for the biomaterial. For the file endpoint, however, the system requires the file name to be provided in the endpoint path. For example, if metadata on a file named R1.fastq.gz is to be added to the envelope, the endpoint would be:


The cUrl command to add file to a submission envelope will look like the following:

curl -X POST \
  http://api.ingest.data.humancellatlas.org/submissionEnvelopes/5b4dec891edf300007b4b17b/files/R1.fastq.gz \
  -H 'content-type: application/json' \
  -d '{
    "describedBy" : "https://schema.humancellatlas.org/type/file/6.5.2/sequence_file",
    "schema_version" : "6.5.2",
    "schema_type" : "file",
    "file_core" : {
      "file_name" : "R1.fastq.gz",
      "file_format" : "fastq.gz",
      "describedBy" : "https://schema.humancellatlas.org/core/file/5.0.0/file_core",
      "schema_version" : "5.2.4"
    "read_index" : "read1",
    "lane_index" : 1,
    "read_length" : 187

Submit the Envelope

The final step in brokering data through the Ingest platform is to submit the envelope to the central data store. This can be done by issuing a HTTP PUT request to the submit endpoint of the submission envelope:

curl -X PUT \
  -H 'content-type: application/json'
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