SISAL: A global database of speleothem isotopes


As some of you already heard during KR8, there is a new initiative to synthesise speleothem data called SISAL (Speleothem Isotopes Synthesis and Analysis)SISAL is a PAGES (Past Global Changes) sponsored working group that was launched in February 2017 and its first goal is to produce a research database of (ideally) all the speleothem-based isotopic records available.

Many of you may wonder how does SISAL differ from NOAA's Web page. Well, the main difference with NOAA's or any other data repository is that SISAL will create a research database. This means that (once it's published and made publicly available) you will have all the speleothem records (along with their metadata) in one single file. This will allow a wide range of analyses that at the moment are not possible unless someone spends a considerable amount of time putting all the data together... Awesome, right? In addition, SISAL is planning to implement a consistent methodology regarding the construction of U/Th age models. This further highlights the differences with NOAA, whose main objective is to archive the records as published.

Other communities have ongoing similar efforts so, for a model of the SISAL database (and examples of what could be done with it), just have a look at the following publications:

Arctic proxy-temperature database (McKay and Kaufman, 2014) Database available here

PAGES 2k temperature database (PAGES 2k Consortium, 2013)
ACER Charcoal database(Sánchez Goñi et al., 2017) Database available here

As in the papers linked above, SISAL’s research database will be versioned and made publicly available by uploading it to a repository such as PANGAEA or NOAA. Depending on the journal we decide to publish it in, we may also be able to upload it as a supplementary material of the paper.

Furthermore, we’ve started discussions with NOAA to see if they would accept our formatted workbooks as individual submissions to their archive. Of course, the authors of each record will be the ones finally responsible to submit their record(s) to NOAA, but we understand that having to format the records only once would be a great time-saver

At this stage, SISAL's main challenges are to identify and compile all the data within a reasonable time frame. Currently, there are 169 records uploaded to NOAA but we’ve already identified more than 400! (you can see them here: List of Records. From these 400+ records, only 63 (from 28 different sites) have been uploaded to the SISAL research database so far. Therefore, we need your help to add any missing record to the list as well as to help us entering data!

Similar initiatives for other types of archives (e.g. Ocean2k) have shown that individual records are more likely to be used/cited if they are included in a global database due to an increased visibility/availability of the data, so you should really consider SISAL as an option to let everyone know about your records.

We understand, that some of you have data but may lack the time to enter it to the database in the specified format while some others will have the time and the motivation to make this a success but have no data of your own. No problem! To overcome this, we suggest that people in the first group send the data in in whatever format they have it along with the publication doi (you can either send it to me or to Those in the second group have the following two options:

- raise your hands and volunteer to re-format the data submitted by the first group so that it can be successfully uploaded to the database and/or,
- start entering one of the 169 records available at NOAA (after making sure it hasn't been already entered!). There may be some key information missing (e.g. depth from top of stal) but, this can be obtained from the original authors later.

SISAL is a community-wide effort and everyone is more than welcome to join the working group and to contribute to the extent possible. More importantly, it's completely up to you to decide the extent of your involvement. Perhaps you just want to send in your data, or you want to help in the organisation of the working group and its meetings. You decide! Believe me, there is enough work to keep everyone happy (and busy!) ;-)

If you’ve reached the end of this email and decided that this is a great initiative, then you may want to join SISAL straight away! To do so, please subscribe to our mailing list and you will receive up to date information about SISAL's progress as well as instructions on how to enter your data. (We won't spam your inbox with emails. I promise!) If, on the contrary, you’re not sure whether this is worth your time, perhaps the  SISAL rules of engagement  regarding publications and contributions helps you make up your mind.

Please, spread the word on our behalf. The more people engages with this initiative, the more likely it is to be successful!

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have further questions. 


(on behalf of SISAL steering committee)

PD: By the way, SISAL is also present in present in Twitterland! ;-)

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