Soil carbon has been measured for over a century in applications ranging from understanding biogeochemical processes in natural ecosystems to quantifying the productivity and health of managed systems. Consolidating diverse soil carbon datasets is increasingly important to maximize their value, particularly with growing anthropogenic and climate change pressures. In this progress report, we describe recent advances in soil carbon data led by the International Soil Carbon Network and other networks. We highlight priority areas of research requiring soil carbon data, including (a) quantifying boreal, arctic and wetland carbon stocks, (b) understanding the timescales of soil carbon persistence using radiocarbon and chronosequence studies, (c) synthesizing long-term and experimental data to inform carbon stock vulnerability to global change, (d) quantifying root influences on soil carbon and (e) identifying gaps in model–data integration. We also describe the landscape of soil datasets currently available, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses and synergies. Now more than ever, integrated soil data are needed to inform climate mitigation, land management and agricultural practices. This report will aid new data users in navigating various soil databases and encourage scientists to make their measurements publicly available and to join forces to find soil-related solutions.