Connecting to Projects

The main class of PyCap is redcap.Project. It must be instantiated with the API URL of your REDCap site and a API token:

from redcap import Project, RedcapError
URL = ''
API_KEY = 'ExampleKey'
project = Project(URL, API_KEY)
note:You will have one API key per redcap project to which you have access. To communicate between projects, you would create multiple redcap.Project instances.

API Keys are effectively your username and password for a particular project. If you have read/write access to a project (which is most likely), anyone with your redcap URL (public knowledge) and your API key has read/write access.

Since REDCap projects are often used to store Personal Health Information (PHI), it is of the utmost importance to:

  • Never share your API key.
  • Delete the key (through the web interface) after you’re done using it.

Ignoring SSL Certificates

If you’re connecting to a REDCap server whose SSL certificate can’t be verified for whatever reason, you can add a verify_ssl=False argument in the Project constructor and no subsequent API calls to the REDCap server will attempt to verify the certficate.

By default though, the certificate will always be verified. Obviously, use this “feature” at your own risk. You are exposing yourself to man-in-the-middle attacks by using this.

Using a local CA_BUNDLE

Because PyCap uses requests under the hood, you can pass a path to your own CA_BUNDLE in the verify_ssl argument during Project instantiation and it will be used.

Project Attributes

When creating a Project object, PyCap goes ahead and makes some useful API calls and creates these attributes:

  • def_field: What REDCap refers to as the unique key
  • forms: A tuple of form names within the project
  • field_names: A tuple of the raw fields
  • field_labels: A tuple of the field’s labels
  • events: Unique event names (longitudinal projects)
  • arm_nums: Unique arm numbers (longitudinal projects)
  • arm_names: Unique arm names (longitudinal projects)
  • redcap_version: version of REDCap the project is associated with.

For non-longitudinal projects, events, arm_nums, and arm_names are empty tuples.

note:To disable calls to the API on initialization you can set lazy=True. This prevents much of the metadata associated with a project from being requested at Project initialization. Accessing these values prior to Project.configure() being run will result in the return of Null values. This might be useful if you’re implementing PyCap into a service-based architecture. For example, On each request to the service you might want to initialize a different Project with each request to the service and use PyCap’s methods to pull records without having to initialize the project’s entire metadata on each service request.


Every Project object has an attribute named metadata. This is a list of dicts with the following keys (in no particular order):

  • field_name: The raw field name
  • field_type: The field type (text, radio, mult choice, etc.)
  • field_note: Any notes for this field
  • required_field: Whether the field is required
  • custom_alignment: (Web-only) Determines how the field looks visually
  • matrix_group_name: The matrix name this field belongs to
  • field_label: The field label
  • section_header: Under which section in the form page this field belongs
  • text_validation_min: Minimum value for validation
  • branching_logic: Any branching logic that REDCap uses to show or hide fields
  • select_choices_or_calculations: For radio fields, the choices
  • question_number: For survey fields, the survey number
  • form_name: Form under which this field exists
  • text_validation_type_or_show_slider_number: Validation type
  • identifier: Whether this field has been marked as containing identifying information
  • text_validation_max: Maximum value for validation

You can export the metadata on your own using the export_metadata method on Project objects.

Exporting Data

Exporting data is very easy with PyCap:

data = project.export_records()

data is a list of dicts with the raw field names as keys.

We can request slices to reduce the size of the transmitted data, which can be useful for large projects:

# Known record identifiers
ids_of_interest = ['1', '2', '3']
subset = project.export_records(records=ids_of_interest)
# Contains all fields, but only three records

# Known fields of interest
fields_of_interest = ['age', 'test_score1', 'test_score2']
subset = project.export_records(fields=fields_of_interest)
# All records, but only three columns

# Only want the first two forms
forms = project.forms[:2]
subset = project.export_records(forms=forms)
# All records, all fields within the first two forms

Note, no matter which fields or forms are requested, the project.def_field key will always be in the returned dicts.

Finally, you can tweak the how the data is labeled or formatted:

# Same data, but keys will the field labels
data = project.export_records(raw_or_label='label')

# You can also get the data in different formats
csv_data = project.export_records(format='csv') # or format='xml'

# quickly make a pandas.DataFrame
data_frame = project.export_records(format='df')
other_df = project.export_records(format='df', df_kwargs={'index_col': project.field_names[1]})

# export checkbox field labels as values (necessary in REDCap >= 6.0 to retrieve checkbox labels)
data = project.export_records(raw_or_label='label', export_checkbox_labels=True)  # note you will still have to set raw_or_label to `label`

When you request a DataFrame, PyCap exports the data as csv and passes it to the pandas.read_csv function. The df_kwargs dict can be used to guide the conversion from csv to DataFrame.

Previously, PyCap enforced a strict intersection between the passed fields and project.field_names but that requirement was dropped in PyCap v0.5:

non_fields = ['foo', 'bar', 'bat']
response = project.export_records(fields=non_fields)
# response will contain dicts with only the def_field

Dealing with large exports

note:If your databases are smaller than about 1 million cells (X records x Y columns), you can safely ignore this section.

Exporting large projects will fail on REDCap’s backend and PyCap will throw a redcap.RedcapError. The threshold for failure seems to be around 1 million cells but I haven’t studied this empirically. So for large projects, the export call with default values will fail:

>>> project = Project(url, 'TokenToALargeProject')
>>> try:
>>>     data = project.export_records()
>>> except RedcapError:
>>>     print "Failure"

Here’s an exporting function that trades speed for robustness:

def chunked_export(project, chunk_size=100):
    def chunks(l, n):
        """Yield successive n-sized chunks from list l"""
        for i in xrange(0, len(l), n):
            yield l[i:i+n]
    record_list = project.export_records(fields=[project.def_field])
    records = [r[project.def_field] for r in record_list]
        response = []
        for record_chunk in chunks(records, chunk_size):
            chunked_response = project.export_records(records=record_chunk)
    except RedcapError:
        msg = "Chunked export failed for chunk_size={:d}".format(chunk_size)
        raise ValueError(msg)
        return response

The gist of the function:

  • Define a sub-function that will yield successive n-sized chunks from a list.
  • Export only the record identifiers. If this times out because you have a million records in your project, you effectively can’t interact with the project through the API. Sorry.
  • Build a list of just the record identifiers and iterate on the chunks:
    • Export the data for just this chunk of identifiers.
    • Extend an ongoing list of responses with this list of data.
  • If any export_records call fails during the loop, a ValueError is raised. You should try again with a smaller chunk size. Otherwise, the list of responses is returned.


  • You can do this with json responses because each chunked response is a list of dictionaries with no structure between records. This becomes much more difficult if you want csv or xml as there is much more structure in these responses.
  • You could also do this with pandas.DataFrame but you’ll want to .append the chunked dataframe, not extend.

I’m hesitant to include this as a method on Project because of these issues. I’m also not sure how often this is encountered in the real world. But feel free to use this function if you need it.

Regardless, you should remember that the REDCap instance you’re working with is most likely a shared resource and you should always try to limit your API export requests to just the information you need at that point in time.

Importing Data

PyCap aims to make importing as easy as exporting:

# toy
def increment_score(record):
    record['score'] += 5

data = project.export_records(fields=['score'])
map(increment_score, data)
response = project.import_records(data)
# response['count'] is the number of records successfully updated

# import other formats too
response = project.import_records(csv_string, format='csv')

# PyCap will convert a DataFrame to csv and import it automatically
response = project.import_records(df)

Date String Formatting

If the REDCap server you’re working with is older than version 5.9 (look at the footer on the main page of your site to find your version), date strings to be imported can be formatted as either 'YYYY-MM-DD' or 'MM/DD/YYYY'. Beginning with v5.9, the API will only accept 'YYYY-MM-DD' formatting unless you specify the date_format parameter in the import_records call. Possible values are 'YMD' (default), 'DMY' or 'MDY':

to_import = [{'record': '1', 'date_of_birth': '02/14/2000'}]
response = project.import_records(to_import, date_format='MDY')

Working with Files

You can download files in a REDCap project (exporting) and upload local files (import) to a REDCap project. You can also delete them but there is no undo button for this operation.

note:Unlike exporting and importing data, exporting/importing/deleting files can only be done for a single record at a time.

Generally, you will be given bytes from the file export method so binary-formatted data can be written properly and you are expected to pass an open file object for file importing. Of course, you should open a file you wish to import with a well-chosen mode.

The REDCap API doesn’t send any return message for file methods. Therefore, it’s important to watch out for redcap.RedcapError exceptions that may occur when a request fails on the server. If this isn’t thrown, you can assume your request worked:

    file_content, headers = project.export_file(record='1', field='file')
except RedcapError:
    # file_content will actually contain an error message now that might be useful to look at.
    # Note, you may want to change the mode in which you're opening files
    # based on the header['name'] value, but that is completely up to you.
    mode = 'wb' if headers['name'].endswith('.pdf') else 'w'
    with open(headers['name'], mode) as f:

existing_fname = 'to_upload.pdf'
fobj = open(existing_fname, 'rb')
field = 'data_file'
# In the REDCap UI, the link to download the file will be named the fname you pass as the ``fname`` parameter
    response = project.import_file(record='1', field=field, fname=existing_fname, fobj=fobj)
except RedcapError:
    # Your import didn't work

# And deleting...
    project.delete_file('1', field)
except RedcapError:
    # The file wasn't deleted
    # It's gone

# Attempting to do any file-related operation on a non-file field will raise a ValueError quickly
    project.import_file(record='1', field='numeric_field', fname, fobj)
except ValueError:
    # Bingo

Exporting Users

You can also export data related to the fellow users of your REDCap project:

users = project.export_users()
for user in users:
    assert 'firstname' in user
    assert 'lastname' in user
    assert 'email' in user
    assert 'username' in user
    assert 'expiration' in user
    assert 'data_access_group' in user
    assert 'data_export' in user
    assert 'forms' in user

So each dict in the exported users list contains the following key, value pairs:

  • firstname: First name of the user
  • lastname: Last name of the user
  • email: Email address for the user
  • username: The username of the user
  • expiration: The user’s access expiration date (empty if no expiration)
  • data_access_group: Data access group of the user
  • data_export: An integer where 0 means they have no access, 2 means they get a De-Identified data, and 1 means they can export the full data set
  • forms: A list of dicts, each having one key (the form name) and an integer value, where 0 means they have no access, 1 means they can view records/responses and edit records (survey responses are read-only), 2 means they can only read surveys and forms, and 3 means they can edit survey responses as well as forms

You can also specify the format argument to project.export_users to be 'csv' or 'xml' and get strings in those respective formats, though json is default and will return the decoded objects.

Exporting Form-Event Mappings

Longitudinal projects have a mapping of what forms are available to collect data within each event. These mappings can be exported from the Project:

fem = project.export_fem()
# Only ask for particular arms
subset = project.export_fem(arms=['arm1'])

# You can also get a DataFrame of the FEM
fem_df = project.export_fem(format='df')

Full API

Full API documentation can be found in the API docs.