George B. Moody PhysioNet Challenge


Quick links for this year's Challenge:

Please post questions and comments in the forum. However, if your question reveals information about your entry, then please email info at We may post parts of our reply publicly if we feel that all Challengers should benefit from it. We will not answer emails about the Challenge to any other address.

Sandbox Evaluation of Entries in PhysioNet/Computing in Cardiology Challenges

This page describes how entries in PhysioNet/CinC Challenges are evaluated and scored automatically. The method described below was developed to support the 2014 Challenge. Entries for future challenges, and unofficial late entries for previous challenges, will also be evaluated and scored using this method.

This page also includes instructions for setting up a replica of the Challenge test environment, which may be useful for debugging Challenge entries.

Evaluation details

All of the processing needed to check, evaluate, and score challenge entries is performed on dedicated 64-bit Linux servers, under control of the supervisor script (evaluate). Each server runs several virtual machines (VMs) using qemu and kvm hardware virtualization.

Newly uploaded entries are initially placed into a queue. The oldest entry in the queue is loaded into an idle VM as soon as one is available, and stage 1 processing begins.

During stage 1 (managed for the 2014 Challenge by prep), the entry is checked to be certain that it contains all of the components required by the rules of the challenge; if so, its script is run. The evaluation ends if stage 1 does not succeed for any of these reasons:

If stage 1 ends early, the diagnostic output of (its standard output and standard error output) is reported in the last case, or an appropriate error message is reported otherwise. If exits successfully (with zero status), the entry is queued for stage 2 processing.

During stage 2 (managed for the 2014 Challenge by quiz), the training data set is copied into the VM. The entry’s script is run once with each training record as input. The evaluation ends if stage 2 does not succeed for any of these reasons:

If stage 2 ends early, the diagnostic output of (its standard output and standard error output) is reported in the first case, or an appropriate error message is reported otherwise. If all of the training set records are processed successfully, and all results match the expected results, and the entry does not include a DRYRUN file (which forces a premature exit after completion of stage 2), the entry is queued for stage 3 processing.

During stage 3 (managed for the 2014 Challenge by exam), the test data set is copied into the VM. The entry’s script is run once with each test record as input. Unlike stage 2, however, errors do not cause premature termination of stage 3, and’s diagnostic output is not reported (to prevent leakage of information about the test data). The numbers of failures and timeouts, if any, are reported in lieu of detailed diagnostics. The results are collected and transmitted from the VM to the dedicated host for stage 4 processing. (The only exception occurs if stage 3 is not complete after 1 hour; in this case, a timeout error is reported, and the evaluation ends at the beginning of stage 4.)

In stage 4 (managed for the 2014 Challenge by score), the collected results are compared with the Challenge’s reference results to determine performance statistics and scores, which are reported to the user.

Replicating the Challenge test environment

In order to test your entry, it is not necessary to replicate the Challenge test hardware, but it may be helpful to compare it with your hardware to estimate your entry’s run time. The dedicated Challenge servers have four quad-core 2.6 GHz AMD Opteron 6212 CPUs and 32 GB of RAM. The VMs are configured with dual-core amd64 CPUs, 2 GB of RAM, a 10 GB read-only root partition, a 1 GB read-write home partition, a CD-ROM drive (for loading the entry into the home partition in stage 1, the training data in stage 2, and the test data in stage 3), and a serial port (for transferring status reports to the host in stages 1 and 2, and analysis results in stage 3). The VMs are not configured with network interfaces.

To replicate the Challenge test software environment available within the VMs, install amd64 Debian 7 (Wheezy) and apply all updates, then install these additional packages from the Debian stable repository:

    automake build-essential gfortran ghc libarmadillo-dev libboost-all-dev
    libgsl0-dev octave openjdk-7-jdk python-numpy r-base sharutils

    liboctave-dev gsl-bin octave-statistics
    octave-control octave-general octave-image octave-miscellaneous
    octave-optim octave-signal octave-specfun octave-struct

(See a complete list of installed Debian packages as of Tuesday, 26 April 2016 at 18:11 EDT.)

Finally, install the WFDB Software Package. (Installation will be much more convenient if a network interface is available; remember, however, that your entry will not be able to use a network interface during evaluation.)

For convenience, you may download a bootable ISO image (847 MB) containing the test environment. The image also includes the training data set for the 2014 Challenge. Copy it to a CD or USB memory stick, then boot it on any computer containing a 64-bit AMD or Intel x86-compatible CPU, or install it within a virtual machine. Details are here; sources and previous versions of the image are here.

You may install and use the test software environment on a spare computer if you wish, or in a VM using whatever VM technology you prefer on your favorite host OS. On the Challenge servers, we use qemu-kvm, hosted on Fedora GNU/Linux.

Supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) under NIH grant number R01EB030362.