Parameter Sweep Bash Script


Ben Lindsay


December 19, 2015

In my polymer simulation research, often my studies involve running a bunch of simulations where I pick one or more input parameters and change them over a range of values, then compare the results of each separate simulation to see how that/those variable(s) affect the system I’m simulating. This kind of study is called a “parameter sweep”, and can also be referred to as “embarrassingly parallel”, because the processor(s) for each for each individual job don’t need to communicate with the processor(s) from any other job. It can be very tedious to manually create input files for each job, so I wrote a bash script to help me out.

For example, if I want to simulate 3 different polymer nanocomposite systems, each with a different nanorod length, I could manually create 3 directories like so:

mkdir length1
mkdir length2
mkdir length3

Then I could copy an input file, bcp.input, and a submit file, into each of those folders like so:

for d in length*/ ; do
    cp bcp.input "$d"
    cp "$d" 

Then I could proceed to manually edit all 6 files (or just 3 if the submission script doesn’t have to change). If it’s just 3 files, it’s not too bad, but if I want to run 10 or 20 simulations with slight changes in the input file for each one, manual editing gets real tedious real fast. I got fed up with it and wrote a script to do all the editing for me. The script is called Feel free to look at it on Bitbucket

Before running the script, I make a template for the input file and submission script with parameter names that the script will replace with parameter values. My input file template could look something like this:

1000        # Number of iterations
60          # Polymer length
1           # Nanorod radius
NRLENGTH    # Nanorod length

and my submission script template could look something like this:

#PBS -l nodes=1:ppn=12
#PBS -l walltime=01:00:00,mem=2gb


# Run code that looks for bcp.input in the current directory
mpirun $HOME/code/awesome_code.exe

In this example, I want to replace NRLENGTH with the actual nanorod length for each bcp.input file in ./length1, ./length2, and ./length3, and I want to replace TRIALNAME with a name corresponding to each simulation in each file. The script does this by looking through a trials.txt file I make that would look like this in this case:

name        i:NRLENGTH  s:TRIALNAME
length1     4           length1-trial
length2     5           length2-trial
length3     6           length3-trial

The i: and s: before NRLENGTH and TRIALNAME, respectively, tell the script to look in the input file or submission script for each variable. Finally, let’s look at how to use the script:

$ ls
bcp.input   trials.txt
$ ~/scripts/ -t trials.txt -i bcp.input -s
Trials file:        trials.txt
Input file:         bcp.input
Submission script:
3 trials
2 vars
Submitting trial length1:
Submitting trial length2:
Submitting trial length3:
$ tree
├── bcp.input
├── length1
│   ├── bcp.input
│   └──
├── length2
│   ├── bcp.input
│   └──
├── length3
│   ├── bcp.input
│   └──
└── trials.txt

So the script made directories for all three simulations, replaced NRLENGTH with 4, 5, and 6 in the bcp.input files, replaced TRIALNAME with length1-trial, length2-trial, and length3-trial in the files, and submitted the files from within their respective simulation directories. In this case, since my script expects files with the names I used, I could have just typed ~/scripts/ If I wanted to be able to check the files before submitting, I could have typed ~/scripts/ -n which would create the directories and files without submitting the jobs.

A few caveats: the script isn’t currently set up to handle more than one layer of simulation directories. Also, the script as it’s set up right now copies whatever input file and submission script its fed to files named bcp.input and Finally, you’ll need to make sure that the variable name you want the script to find and replace with variable values doesn’t show up anywhere else in the file. The script will find and replace all instances of the variable name (case sensitive).

This script has saved me a lot of time. Hopefully it can help someone else out there too.