Build a workspace using data, showcase, and tools Library resources

Allie Cliffe
  • Updated

Learn how to access Terra-hosted datasets, curated showcase workspaces, and a workflow repository to build your workspace.

How to access the Terra Libraries

Click the main navigation menu (three horizontal lines icon) at the top left of any page and open the "Library" submenu.  
Screenshot of Terra Libraries in terra's main navigation menu with Library Data Showcase Workflows highlighted

Data Library

Terra hosts both open- and controlled-access datasets. Some datasets have built-in data explorers for browsing, filtering, and searching the data. Explorers also let you use selection criteria to create custom subsets (cohorts) of data. Note: The number of available datasets - and the amount and type of data available in each - are growing, including public-access datasets.

Accessing controlled data from the Terra Data LibraryRegistering for Terra does not mean you can access all the hosted data. To access restricted data, you must be added to an Access policy for that resource. When you try to view data you cannot access, you'll be prompted to request access.

Screen capture of going to the data library from the main navigation menu and clicking on the controlled-access UK Biobank dataset. When the curser clicks on the browse dataset button, a warning message comes up that you don't have access. The cursor hovers over the email link in the warning message for requesting access

Terra Library datasets

Datasets have different explorers for filtering data to make custom cohorts. Note: Since the Data Library is always expanding, you may find additional datasets available on Terra.


The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) Program established a data resource and tissue bank to study the relationship between genetic variation and gene expression in multiple human tissues.

STAGE - TOPMedTrans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed)

Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), TOPMed is a program to generate scientific resources to enhance our understanding of fundamental biological processes that underlie heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders (HLBS).

Nurses Health Study (NHS)

The Nurses' Health Study and Nurses' Health Study II are among the largest investigations into the risk factors for major chronic diseases in women.

Human Cell Atlas (HCA)

The Human Cell Atlas is made up of comprehensive reference maps of all human cells — the fundamental units of life — as a basis for understanding fundamental human biological processes and diagnosing, monitoring, and treating disease.

The Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE)

The ENCODE project aims to delineate all functional elements encoded in the human genome. To this end, ENCODE has systematically mapped regions of transcription, transcription factor association, chromatin structure and histone modification.


The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) is a dataset comprised of over two petabytes of genomic data, produced in a collaboration between the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Using a Data Explorer

If you have permission to view a dataset, clicking browse data will open a data explorer. Here you can create your own subset of data (cohort) by choosing criteria relevant to your research. When you   export the subset to your workspace, it will appear as a Cohort table in the Data tab. 

Screencapture of the ENCODE data explorer demonstrating how the number of donors changes as you click on different health stats. Clicking on abdominal sarcoma surfaces one donor, clicking additional health stats includes more donors in the cohort. The cursor hovers over the export button to export the cohort to a Terra workspace once you've selected the cohort. The name is typed into the modal and the send button sends the cohort to the destination workspace.

In the clip above, we create a unique cohort by filtering for patients with a few types of cancers, and then limiting the cohort by gender.

Clicking ExportSend reveals an import data screen where you can select the workspace to send your custom cohort.

Screenshot of Terra logo overlaid with the destinatino dropdown modal

For step-by-step instructions on on how to use custom cohorts with SQL and BigQuery, see Accessing and analyzing custom cohorts with Data Explorer.

Showcase and Tutorials Library

One of the best ways to get started in Terra is to explore the curated Showcase Workspaces in the Library (access from the dropdown in the main navigation menu at the top left). These workspaces span a variety of use cases to show how peers design similar experiments. They are standardized for completeness and ease of use.

Classes of Showcase Workspaces

  • Tutorial workspaces
  • Specific analysis tools (i.e., WDLs, Jupyter Notebooks, Hail, Bioconductor)
  • Experimental strategies (i.e., GWAS, Exome analysis, RNA-seq)
  • Scientific domains (Cancer, infectious diseases, single-cell, immunology)

They're great as templates or to help reproduce instructive results and learn established methodologies - and you don't have to be logged into Terra to see them (though you will have to log in to make your own copy so you can work in it!).

Using Showcase workspaces as templates

You should find enough detail in the workspace description to analyze the included sample data. Or, if you prefer, cost and time estimates give you the confidence to run on your own data.

Screenshot of the featured workspace library with the GATK4 Germline Variant Calling best practics workspace, the Peat demo workspace, and the inferncnv workspace in the main section and the menu for filtering showcase workspaces on the left with categories for getting started, analysis tools, experimental strategy, data generation technology, scientific domain, datasets, utilities, and projects.

Code and Workflows Library

The Code and Workflows Library contains GATK Best Practices workflows and links to both Dockstore and the Broad Methods Repository (look in the right column). You'll find workflow components to run individually or to string together in these workflow repositories.

How to import workflows to your workspace

All workflows in Terra use Workflow Description Language (WDL)

Screenshot of the code and workflows library with four GATK Best practices workflow cards in the main section and an option to find additional workflows from dockstore and the Broad Methods repository in a card on the right.

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