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Hanover Research Partnership

Hanover Research delivers proposal support services to faculty members with a primary appointment at the College of Medicine (CoM). CoM faculty members serving as primary mentor to a trainee at the CoM may also request support for a trainee’s mentored award (e.g. F30, F31, F32, F99/K00). Hanover’s services focus on external grant submissions.

Hanover’s services are available on a first-come, first-served basis and must be advance-scheduled. Please keep in mind that requests submitted within five (5) weeks of a major NIH deadline may be difficult to schedule due to high project volume.

Faculty members are encouraged to connect with Research Development early in their proposal planning process to discuss their needs.

Submit a Hanover request form

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More About the Partnership

Hanover Research produced a 20-minute video that discusses its partnership with the College of Medicine, introduces the services available to faculty members and provides answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Watch recording

(Note: This presentation is made available by Hanover Research, not the College of Medicine. Those who need assistance with the presentation, or who need it in another format, should email Clinton Doggett of Hanover Research at

Service Offerings

Overview Expand answer

Faculty members can request a stand-alone service or a combination of services, including individual consultation sessions, proposal reviews and proposal revisions. The determination of which specific services Hanover provides to a faculty member or postdoctoral scholar will depend on several factors, most notably proposal readiness, funding sponsor deadline and the number of projects in Hanover’s queue.

Request Hanover’s Assistance

The Research Concierge Service manages the Hanover pipeline, which is capped at six concurrent projects. Every effort is made to accommodate all PI requests.

Consultation Sessions

Grants consultant delivers expert advice on how to frame a research project to match the funder’s priorities.

Proposal Review

Grants consultant identifies strengths and weaknesses; opportunities for shaping a more competitive proposal are outlined.

Turnaround Time: 10 business days

Proposal Revision

Grants consultant uses track changes and margin comments to suggest revisions to the research proposal. Special focus on achieving clarity and effective use of language.

Turnaround Time: 15 business days

Consultation Session Expand answer

Consultations are an excellent option for PIs seeking advice on how to frame a research project to match a funder’s priorities. Sessions are conducted via conference call and are generally one hour in length with the PI option to close out Hanover’s engagement with a subsequently scheduled 30-minute follow-up call. Hanover offers three types of consultation sessions:

  • Unfunded Proposal Consult: For PIs preparing to resubmit a previously declined proposal but uncertain how to address reviewer feedback and other critiques within the rewrite.
  • Research Design Consult: For PIs needing guidance on how to pitch a research idea to a program officer.
  • Grantseeking Strategy Consult: For PIs looking for expert advice on how to frame a research idea to better align with a funder’s strategic priorities.
Proposal Review Expand answer

A Hanover grants consultant provides a peer review of the research proposal, assessing the narrative for its degree of alignment with the funding opportunity announcement and evaluating the proposal based on review criteria. A proposal review is most suitable for PIs who are in the early stages of the proposal writing process. A representative example is the PI who has just completed a first draft of the specific aims page and research strategy sections. Hanover’s services are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. It is recommended that you submit a request form early in your proposal planning process to secure a reviewer for your project.

Proposal Revision Expand answer

A Hanover grants consultant takes proposal review a step further by using track changes and margin comments to suggest revisions to the proposal narrative. Track changes focus on achieving clarity and effective use of language, including punctuation and grammar. A proposal revision is most suitable for PIs that are in the later stages of their writing process. For example, the PI who has a final or near-final draft of his/her specific aims page and research strategy sections. Hanover’s services are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. It is recommended that you submit a request form early in your proposal planning process to secure a reviewer for your project.


How are projects selected for the Hanover queue? Expand answer

The Research Concierge Service manages the pipeline of projects submitted to Hanover Research. Several factors are taken into consideration when evaluating projects for Hanover Research, including but not limited to the faculty member’s willingness to share proposal materials and honor agreed-upon deadlines, the completeness of proposal documents, sponsor deadlines, and current pipeline capacity. The College of Medicine’s contract with Hanover Research caps the pipeline at six active projects. Every effort is made to accommodate all PI requests, but some worthwhile projects may not be accepted into the pipeline due to this limitation.

Who is eligible for Hanover's services? Expand answer

To be eligible for Hanover’s services, the PI must be a faculty member with a primary appointment at Penn State College of Medicine.

The program also accepts requests to support grant proposals (NIH and non-NIH) that are being developed by postdoctoral scholars who are actively being mentored by a College of Medicine faculty member.

In these circumstances, the faculty mentor must submit the Hanover Request Form on behalf of the postdoctoral scholar. The faculty mentor will be included in Hanover’s communications with the mentee and will be encouraged to participate in scheduled discussions with Hanover’s assigned grants consultant.

How does Hanover approach proposal critiques? Expand answer

Hanover makes no claim that its grants consultants are subject matter experts who can evaluate the specific science underpinning a research proposal. Rather, Hanover’s value lies in its understanding of proposal and agency nuances that can help PIs competitively reframe proposals in response to a specific solicitation. Hanover seeks to achieve cohesion in the grant narrative and to align the proposal with funding requirements. A Hanover grants consultant may address general scientific elements of a proposal, such as:

  • Construct or structure of the hypothesis and methodology. While Hanover does not purport to provide “scientific reviews” that evaluate the specific science underpinning proposals, its grants consultants will flag where they think research questions, aims, and hypotheses could be strengthened and better aligned.
  • Literature review. Hanover grants consultants will note places where a citation is needed and has not been included.
  • Clarity and focus. When they suspect that narrative content lacks sufficient clarity, consistency, or rigor, Hanover grants consultants will pose questions to encourage the PI to verify the science, and/or suggest a review by a senior colleague or program officer.
How does Hanover work with each PI? Expand answer

After a PI project is accepted in Hanover Research’s pipeline, Hanover Research emails the PI to introduce the assigned grants consultant. Consultation sessions are generally one hour in length and take place via conference call. For proposal review and revision services, Hanover Research first schedules a project initiation conference call prior to the start of work. Project initiation calls give the PI an opportunity to discuss specific areas of concern with the assigned grants consultant and to share reviewer feedback (if available). After Hanover releases its deliverables, the PI is afforded the opportunity for a debrief conference call to discuss Hanover’s critique and to address any outstanding questions or concerns.

What parts of a research proposal will Hanover critique? Expand answer

Hanover’s proposal critiques focus on the narrative components of research proposals – namely the specific aims page, research strategy, and (for resubmissions) the introduction. For resubmission proposals, the PI should be prepared to provide a copy of the unfunded proposal along with reviewer feedback.

What type of proposals are appropriate for Hanover to critique? Expand answer

Hanover Research (Hanover) works with research proposals that have been/will be submitted to an external funding sponsor. Hanover has the expertise to review a wide range of NIH proposals, from individual grants (e.g. K, R01, R21, R03) to program project, center, and institutional training grants. Hanover can work with new submissions, resubmission proposals, and competing renewal applications. For resubmissions of unfunded proposals and competing renewal applications, PIs will be asked to provide a copy of the original submission along with reviewers’ comments (e.g., summary statement).

Who do I contact if I have questions? Expand answer

Please direct questions to Jennifer Schaefer, Research Concierge Administrator for Penn State College of Medicine, at or 717-531-0003, ext. 289352.

About Hanover Research

Overview Expand answer

Established in 2003, Hanover Research is a grant development and market research firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. Hanover’s grant professionals have collectively more than 150 years of grantsmanship experience that cuts across a wide range of foundations and federal agencies. Hanover has worked extensively with higher education institutions to grow their research portfolios and has helped clients to secure more than $500 million in awarded grants. The company’s grants practice supports both junior faculty members and seasoned investigators seeking to strengthen their grantsmanship skills. Hanover has considerable expertise in relation to the mechanisms and agencies commonly targeted by PIs at the College of Medicine. Grant mechanisms include individual grants (e.g. K, R01, R21, R03), program project grants, center grants, and institutional training grants. Representative funders include the NIH, NSF, DOD, AHRQ, PCORI, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Hanover Team Biographies Expand answer

Bryan DeBusk, Senior Grants Consultant

Credentials: PhD, Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Mississippi; BS, Biology, Ouchita Baptist University

Biography: Bryan specializes in program design, research design, and proposal development to support the grant writing efforts of basic and clinical researchers, higher education faculty, and other college and university staff. Since transitioning from a university faculty appointment to full- time grant writing in 2008, Bryan has helped clients obtain more than $245 million in funding from NIH, NSF, HRSA, DOL, ED, other federal & state agencies, and private foundations.

Sarah Ott, Senior Grants Consultant

Credentials: M.S., Exercise Science and Health Promotion, California University of Pennsylvania M.S., Journalism, West Virginia University B.S., Journalism, West Virginia University

Biography: Sarah provides grant review, writing and project design services for clients around the country including major post-secondary institutions and academic research institutions. Sarah predominantly works on health-related proposals supporting a variety of investigators including physicians, nurse researchers, pharmacists, medical faculty, and basic scientists. Her areas of expertise include clinical and translational science, patient-centered outcomes research and program development and evaluation. Prior to coming to Hanover, Sarah accumulated a decade of grant writing experience at two large academic health sciences centers. While at Hanover, Sarah has added successful state and foundation proposals to her federal experience with agencies such as DOD, NIH (P01, R01, R03, R15, R21, R37, U01 and U54), HRSA (R40), CDC, AHRQ, and ED.

Melissa Cornish, Grants Consultant

Credentials: MS, Public Health/Health Policy, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill BA, Sociology, Interdisciplinary Studies, Emory University

Biography: Melissa provides Hanover and its higher education clients with grant reviews, writing support, and project design services. Her experiences in grant writing and proposal refinement span proposals to the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and a number of private foundations dedicated to funding clinical and translational science and health services research. Prior to joining Hanover, Melissa served as project leader/manager at a large academic medical center and other research -intensive institution where she identified and managed research collaborations and provided extensive business development support in the form of grant writing and proposal/budget development, strategic planning, program development, and communications and marketing.

Steven Jax, Grants Consultant

Credentials: PhD, Psychology, Pennsylvania State University MS, Psychology, Pennsylvania State University BA, Psychology, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Biography: Steven provides Hanover and its higher education clients with grant reviews and writing support. He has experience in grant writing and proposal review for the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Administration of Community Living, U.K. Medical Research Council, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and several private foundations. Before joining Hanover, Steven served as a research scientist for 14 years at a medical center research institute, working in the field of neurorehabilitation. During this time, he obtained funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and a private foundation. In addition, he worked with several interdisciplinary teams (including engineers, physical therapists, neurologists, and computer scientists) to develop funded grants.

Jamee Hoefert, Grants Consultant

Credentials: PhD, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado Boulder BA, Biology, St Olaf College

Biography: Jaimee provides Hanover and its higher education clients with grant reviews and writing support, with a focus on proposals for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Prior to coming to Hanover, Jaimee worked as a bench scientist and accumulated experience writing, critiquing, and assembling grants alongside clients and colleagues. She also has over five years’ experience writing about scientific topics for a lay audience, and leverages that expertise to help researchers create grant proposals that are both compelling and easily understood.