Last Update: 7 October 2022
Download RMarkdown: GRWG22_JobPerDataFile.Rmd


This tutorial covers how to use an R script to list many input files and submit a SLURM job script to apply another R script to the input files. No actual geospatial analyses are applied in this example as it was a generic request during the 10th session of the Geospatial Research Working Group Workshop 2022.

If you prefer to have a single SLURM submission script iterate over your data inputs, see this tutorial.

The instructions below will be mostly the same for both Ceres and Atlas. Choose either cluster to work on for the tutorial. There is one line you will need to modify in this tutorial and your options depend on which cluster you are currently using.

Language: R


  • SLURM Workload Manager: The software on Ceres and Atlas that allocates compute cores to users for their submitted jobs.

Analysis Steps

  • Write and save a serial R script that accepts command line arguments
  • Write and save a SLURM job submission script template
  • Write and save a serial R script that lists files and submits jobs
  • Execute the R script for submitting many jobs

Step 1: Write and save a serial R script that accepts command line arguments

Save the code chunk below as JobPerDataFile_calculate.R. This is a fake ‘calculation’. The script will print the filename it was passed and wait for two minutes just so we can see the job associated with it in the queue. The intent of this example R script is to represent a generic R script that accepts one command line argument, e.g. the filename of a data input file that you would like to process in R, and a calculation, e.g. the code associated with that processing you want to do to each data input file.

## You could put any R code here, with or without parallel packages like 
## `parallel` or `doParallel`. If you do have parallel packages, you would need 
## to requests more tasks in the submission script, e.g. --ntasks-per-node=16
## for 16 cores.

# Read in the input filename
args <- commandArgs(trailingOnly=TRUE)
my_file <- args[1]

# Do the 'calculation'
cat("Processing:", my_file)

Step 2: Write and save a SLURM job submission script template

Save the code chunk below as We will use these lines as a job submission script template and replace the <THE_DATA_FILE_TRIM> and <THE_DATA_FILE> strings with each of our filenames we want to pass to JobPerDataFile_calculate.R. Note that the one thing you will need to change in this tutorial is the account name in this script template.


#SBATCH --time=00:05:00       # walltime limit (HH:MM:SS)
#SBATCH --nodes=1             # number of nodes
#SBATCH --ntasks-per-node=2   # 1 processor core(s) per node X 2 threads per core
#SBATCH --output=slurm_%x.out
#SBATCH --account=yourProjectName  # REPLACE

module load r

Rscript --vanilla JobPerDataFile_calculate.R <THE_DATA_FILE>

The meaning of our parameter choices:

  • time=00:05:00: Our tasks will take up to 5 minutes to run.
  • nodes=1: We only need one node. If you are just getting started with parallel processing, you will likely only need one node.
  • ntasks-per-node=2: We want two logical cores on our one node, i.e. each task will use one physical core. Our individual tasks are serial and only need one core.
  • job-name=<THE_DATA_FILE_TRIM>: We want to assign a job name ourselves instead of relying on a JOBID assigned by SLURM for identifying our job on the queue. We will be overwriting <THE_DATA_FILE_TRIM> with trimmed filenames in the next step.
  • --output=slurm_%x.out: Save any output from R (e.g. printed messages, warnings, and errors) to a file with a filename in the format of output_JOBNAME.out.
  • --account=yourProjectName: Atlas requires an account name but Ceres does not. If you are on Atlas, you will need to replace yourProjectName with the name of one of your projects. If you do not know your available projects, you can run
     sacctmgr show associations where user=$USER format=account%20

    on either cluster to list the names. On Ceres, you have option to replace yourProjectName with the name of one of your projects, or delete the whole line from the script.

Note: there are additional SLURM parameters you may use, including how to specify your own job ID or setting memory requirements. Check out the Ceres or Atlas (scroll down to ‘Atlas Job Script Generator’ section) job script generator to see more examples on how to populate job submission scripts on Ceres.

Step 3: List files and submit jobs

Save the code chunk below as JobPerDataFile_submit.R. It will:

  1. Read in the job template we defined above
  2. List data files with a certain pattern in a chosen directory (in this example, all ending in ‘R’ or ‘sh’ in our working directory, including sub-directories)
  3. For each data file found, overwrite placeholders in template and submit the job to SLURM.
# Objective: This R script will generate SLURM jobs to apply
# another R script to each data file in nested directories. 

# 1. Read in SLURM submission template
job_template_f <- ''
job_template <- readLines(job_template_f)

# 2. List data files in directories
dir_to_start <- getwd() # wherever your data files begin
file_pattern <- 'R$|sh$' # only find certain filename patterns
data_files <- list.files(path = dir_to_start, 
                         pattern = file_pattern,  # optional
                         recursive = TRUE) # search in sub-directories

# 3. For each data file, write a submission script and submit
# Note, the submission script it being over-written for each
# data file. 
job_script_f <- ''
for(d_f in data_files){
  # Write data file into slurm job template
  slurm_instructions <- gsub('<THE_DATA_FILE>',
  # Remove file extension and use the basename
  # as your job ID and name
  d_f_trimmed <- tools::file_path_sans_ext(d_f)
  slurm_instructions <- gsub('<THE_DATA_FILE_TRIM>',
  # Save instructions to batch script
  # Submit the job

Step 4: Execute the R script for submitting many jobs

Now that we have our calculation script (JobPerDataFile_calculate.R), our job script template (, and a script for updating that template with our input files and then submitting it as a job (JobPerDataFile_submit.R), we can execute that last script to submit a job for each of our input files. The line below executed in the shell with run our JobPerDataFile_submit.R script.

module load r
Rscript --vanilla JobPerDataFile_submit.R

You will see a message from SLURM about a submitted job for each input file your R script found:

Submitted batch job 8145023
Submitted batch job 8145024
Submitted batch job 8145025

Step 4: Check results

To see the status of your job, you can view the SLURM queue. The queue lists all of the jobs currently submitted, who submitted them, the job status, and what nodes are allocated to the job. Since this can be a very long list, it is easiest to find your jobs if you filter the queue to only the jobs you submitted. The command to view the queue is squeue and you can filter it to a specific user with the -u parameter followed by their SCINet account name.

squeue -u firstname.lastname
     8145023     short JobPerDa heather.  R       0:04      1 ceres20-compute-3
     8145024     short JobPerDa heather.  R       0:04      1 ceres20-compute-3
     8145025     short JobPerDa heather.  R       0:04      1 ceres20-compute-3

If you see jobs listed in the queue: you have jobs currently in the queue and the status column will indicate if that job is pending, running, or completing. Since our ‘calculation’ takes two minutes, you should see these jobs (one for each data input file) with the status ‘R’ for running for approximately two minutes. If you do NOT see jobs listed in the queue: you do not have jobs currently in the queue. If you submitted jobs but they are not listed, then they completed - either successfully or unsuccessfully.

To determine if the job executed successfully, you may check if your anticipated output was created. In our case, we would expect to see a slurm_THE_DATA_FILE_TRIM.out file for each .R or .sh file in our current directory. At a minimum, you will have JobPerDataFile_calculate.R,, and JobPerDataFile_submit.R from this example as input files. Inside each, there should be a message for each data file, for example:

Processing: JobPerDataFile_calculate.R