February, 2020 marks the end of the first phase of the 3-year PAGES Working Group called SISAL. SISAL – Speleothem Isotope Synthesis and Analysis was the herculean effort lead by Laia Comas-Bru and guided by Sandy Harrison. It aimed to bring the global speleothem community together to create a speleothem database to answer big-picture climate questions.

Over the last three years, SISAL has accomplished everything it promised and more. SISAL has created an amazing speleothem database with more than 690 speleothem records (three times what is available in NOAA!). More than 500 of these records have standardised age models. SISAL has published a set of regional papers highlighting the potential of using the SISAL database for regional palaeoclimate analysis, and have established a protocol for using SISAL for data-model comparisons.

Most importantly perhaps, SISAL has been successful in creating an active community with more than 100 researchers from 20+ countries, particularly early career researchers and researchers from developing countries.  SISAL has brought open data practises to the speleothem community and has proved the benefit of truly global collaborations for attacking big science prizes as well as accomplishing individual career goals. It has evened the playing field by making data, knowledge and opportunities accessible to researchers from countries that cannot afford labs to generate data.

Asfawossen Asrat, from Past Global Changes (PAGES);  agrees with this assessment of SISAL! Asfa is the liaison person of the SISAL Working Group in the PAGES Steering Committee and comments that SISAL has been one of the most vibrant and productive Working Groups’ of PAGES.

SISAL is heading into its second phase and we are keen to keep the momentum going!  This group is open to anyone who is interested. Find out more here: http://pastglobalchanges.org/sisal.

Nikita Kaushal is a research fellow at Asian School of Environment (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and a member of SISAL’s steering committee.

Featured image: Attendees to the third SISAL workshop (Agadir, Morocco) in October 2018