Neal Francis Lane

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Neal Francis Lane
Director of the National Science Foundation
In office
Preceded by Walter Massey
Succeeded by Rita Colwell
Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
In office
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by John Gibbons
Succeeded by John Marburger
Personal details
Born August 22, 1938 (1938-08-22) (age 79)
Oklahoma City
Alma mater University of Oklahoma

Cornelius (Neal) Francis Lane (born August 22, 1938), is a U.S. physicist and Senior Fellow in Science and Technology Policy at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and Malcolm Gillis University Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy Emeritus at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

He has served as chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, provost of Rice University, and Science Advisor to the President (Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) during the Bill Clinton Administration. Lane lectures and writes on matters of science and technology policy.[1]


Early life[edit]

Lane was born in Oklahoma City in 1938, graduated from Southeast High School, and earned his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Oklahoma. His thesis advisor was Professor Chun C. Lin, who later joined the Department of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.[2]

Research, Teaching and Administration[edit]

Initially pursuing a career in teaching and research, Lane carried out post-doctoral studies in the Department of Applied Mathematics at Queen’s University Belfast in Belfast, Northern Ireland, studying with Professor Alexander Dalgarno, and as a visiting fellow at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (currently JILA), working with Dr. Sydney Geltman. He joined Rice University as an assistant professor in 1966 and was promoted to full professor of physics, space physics, and astronomy in 1972. His research contributions were all in the area of theoretical, atomic, and molecular physics, with an emphasis on electronic and atomic collision phenomena.

On leave from Rice for the academic year 1979-1980, Lane served as Director of the Division of Physics at the National Science Foundation (NSF). In 1984 he became chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, which was developing new graduate programs in science and engineering in response to the growing technology industry in the Pikes Peak region.[3] Returning to Rice as provost in 1986, Lane served in this role until 1993, when he joined the Bill Clinton Administration as Director of the NSF and ex officio member of the National Science Board.

National Science Foundation[edit]

As Director of the NSF from 1993-1998, Lane focused on preserving the agency’s emphasis on supporting fundamental research in all fields of science, mathematics and engineering. During Lane’s tenure, the NSF was required to develop a formal long-range strategic plan in accordance with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993.[4] The NSF plan[5] avoided prescriptive quantitative metrics and retained a discipline-based organization focused on funding excellent basic research, with expert peer review evaluation as the main criterion for success. On the programmatic side, the agency realigned and re-competed the NSF Supercomputer Centers, in response to rapid changes in scientific computing, and the NSF Science and Technology Centers. NSF also established the CAREER program for young investigators and began implementation of the first federal agency electronic system for proposal submission and review. During Lane’s tenure, the NSF created the major research equipment budget line,[6] which supported several construction projects, including the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), the first GEMINI telescope, and the new Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station, part of the U.S. Antarctic Program.[7] In response to employee needs, NSF established the first child-development center for its personnel. In April 1998, at one of Lane’s last Congressional hearings as NSF Director, when asked to speculate on the future, he said: “If I were asked for an area of science and engineering that will most likely produce the breakthroughs of tomorrow I would point to nanoscale science and engineering, often called simply ‘nanotechnology’."[8]

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy[edit]

In August 1998, Lane was appointed President Bill Clinton’s science advisor, a dual position as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House OSTP, the latter requiring Senate confirmation. As science advisor to President Clinton, Lane worked to promote the Administration’s science and technology initiatives and, specifically, championed the advancement of basic scientific research in the U.S. During Lane’s tenure, the White House OSTP dealt with policies related to stem cell research, food safety, missile defense, climate change, the U.S. space program. (e.g., launch of the first elements of the International Space Station), and the Human Genome Project, (e.g., release of the first draft sequence of the human genome),[9] the National Nanotechnology Initiative,[10] and international cooperation in science and technology.

Current Work[edit]

Serving until the end of the Clinton administration, Lane returned to Rice in 2001 as the institution’s first University Professor, also serving as Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Senior Fellow of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. He retired from his faculty positions as Malcolm Gillis University Professor and Professor of Physics and Astronomy on January 1, 2015.

Lane continues to serves as Senior Fellow in Science and Technology Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and Co-Director of the Baker Institute’s Science and Technology Policy Program alongside Dr. Kirstin R.W. Matthews. The Baker Institute is a top-ranked university-affiliated nonpartisan public policy think tank with research programs in energy policy; health policy; tax and expenditure policy; Latin America, Mexico, Middle East, and China studies; drug policy; international economics; politics and elections; religion policy; space policy; and science and technology policy.[1] The Science and Technology Policy Program aims to develop an active dialogue between scientists and citizens; to propose funding allocations for scientific and biomedical research, environmental policy, and science diplomacy; and to instruct on scientific public policy endeavors.[11] Lane has worked with Matthews on numerous projects, including the International Stem Cell Policy Initiative[12] and the Civic Scientist Initiative.

Lane continues to lecture, provide Congressional testimony, meet with students, scholars and leaders in education, business and public policy. He also serves on non-profitaboardsnd advisory committees that focus on science and technology, science and mathematics education, and federal policy. He co-chaired (with Norman Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp.) a study of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences that led to the 2014 report “Restoring the Foundation – The Vital Role of Research in Preserving the American Dream.[13] He serves on the Advisory Board of the Journal of Science Policy & Governance.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Neal Lane is married to Joni Sue (Williams) Lane. In 2015 they celebrated their 55th anniversary. They have two children, Christy Saydjari and John Lane, and four grandchildren, Allia Rodriguez and Alex Saydjari, and Matthew and Jessica Lane.


For a complete list of professional memberships and activities, and a full list of publications, please see Lane's c.v., which is accessible from his Baker Institute web page.

Selected publications[edit]

1. Neal Lane, “Benjamin Franklin, Civic Scientist”, in Physics Today, vol. 56, no. 10, p 41 (October 2003)

2. Neal Lane, “U.S. Science and Technology – An Uncoordinated System That Seems to Work” in special issue “China, India and the United States,” of the journal Technology in Society, vol. 30, Nos 3–4 August–November 2008, pp 248–263 (Elsevier, NY, and Science Direct, 2008)

3. Neal Lane and Tom Kalil, “The National Nanotechnology Initiative: Present at the Creation”, Issues in Science and Technology , XXI, Number 4 (Summer 2005), pp 49–54 (National Academies, Washington D.C.)

4. Neal Lane, “Science in the seat of power,” in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, issue July/August 2008, page 48.

5. Neal Lane, “Essay: American Physics, Policy, and Politics: An Uneasy Relationship,” Physical Review Letters, vol. 101, 31 December 2008, page 260001-260009.

6. Neal Lane and George Abbey, “United States Space Policy: Challenges and Opportunities Gone Astray,” American Academy of Arts and Sciences (occasional paper) (Cambridge, Mass., 2009).

7. Neal Lane and Kirstin Matthews, “The President’s Scientist” in Cell 139, pp 847–850 (Nov. 25, 2009)

8. Kirstin R.W. Matthews, Neal Lane and Kenneth M. Evans, “U.S. Scientific Research and Development 202”, in “Science Progress” (July 23, 2011, on-line)

9. Neal Lane, “Science Policy Tools: Time for an Update”, in Issues in Science and Engineering (National Academies Press, Fall 2011, pp 31–38) .

10. Neal Lane and Rahul Rekhi, “Qualitative Metrics in Science Policy: What Can’t be Counted Counts,” in Issues in Science and Engineering (National Academies Press, Fall 2012, pp 21–24)

11. Norman Augustine and Neal Lane, “What if America had a Plan for Scientific Research?” Inside Sources, on-line -April 28, 2014

12. A.A. Rosenberg, L.M. Branscomb, V. Eady, P.C. Frumhoff, G.T. Goldman, M. Halpern, K. Kimmell, Y. Kothari, L.D. Kramer, N.F. Lane, J.J. McCarthy, P. Phartiyal, K. Rest, R. Sims, and C. Wexler, “Congress’s Attacks on Science-Based Rules: Proposed Laws Based on False Premises Could Undermine Science for the Public Interest,” Science, pp 964–966, vol. 348, issue 6238, 2015.

A full list of Lane’s publications, including physics research papers, can be found in his c.v., which is accessible from his Baker Institute web page.


  1. ^ a b "Neal F. Lane". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  2. ^ "Chun C Lin | Department of Physics". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  3. ^ "Neal F. Lane Bio". Retrieved 2016-02-09. 
  4. ^ "Government Performance Results Act of 1993". The White House. Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  5. ^ "NSF GPRA Strategic Plan". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  6. ^ "National Science Board: Meetings". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  7. ^ "The USAP Portal: Science and Support in Antarctica - About the Program". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  8. ^ "Research Areas." OLPA. National Science Foundation, 1998. Web. 17 Mar. 2016. <>.
  9. ^ Lane, Neal (October 1999), “Memorandum for the President: Genome Patenting,” Clinton Library.
  10. ^ Lane, Neal and Kalil, Thomas. “The National Nanotechnology Initiative: Present at the Creation.” 27 November 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  11. ^ "Science & Technology Policy". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  12. ^ "INTERNATIONAL STEM CELL POLICY". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  13. ^ American Academy of Arts and Sciences. “Restoring the Foundation: The Vital Role of Research in Preserving the American Dream.” 16 September 2014. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  14. ^

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Walter Massey
Director of the National Science Foundation
Succeeded by
Rita Colwell