The Penn State College of Medicine has contracted with Hanover Research, a grant development firm headquartered in Washington, D.C., to provide proposal support services to faculty investigators. The primary goal of this partnership is to increase the quality and success rate of extramural research proposals. Faculty members with a primary appointment at the College of Medicine are eligible for Hanover’s services, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis. This initiative is generously supported by the Office of the Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies. There is no cost share requirement for the individual PI or his/her home department. To learn more about Hanover Research, click here.

Service Offerings

Grant support available to Penn State College of Medicine faculty members ranges from individual consultation sessions to proposal review and revision services. To request Hanover’s assistance, PIs must submit a Hanover Request Form. PIs can request a stand-alone service or a combination of services. The Research Concierge Service manages the Hanover pipeline, which is capped at six (6) concurrent projects. Every effort is made to accommodate all PI requests.

Consultation Session

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 1 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 (3) 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

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. For most projects, the cutoff date for submitting proposals to Hanover Research is 5 to 7 weeks before the sponsoring agency’s proposal submission deadline. 

Proposal Revision 

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. For most projects, the cutoff date for submitting proposals to Hanover Research is 5 to 7 weeks before the sponsoring agency’s proposal submission deadline. 


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 (6) 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.

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.

All documents are shared with Hanover via secure File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to protect the exchange of confidential information.

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.

Hanover’s proposal critiques focus on the narrative components of research proposals. At a minimum, PIs preparing a new grant submission should provide Hanover a draft of the specific aims page and research strategy. For resubmission proposals, the PI should provide a copy of the unfunded proposal, reviewer feedback (e.g., summary statement), the introduction, and the newly revised specific aims page and research strategy. PIs are welcome to submit other narrative elements for Hanover’s critique – e.g., biosketches, multiple PI plan, facilities and resources section.

Hanover Research has the expertise to review a wide range of proposals, from individual grants (e.g. K, R01, R21, R03) to program project, center, and institutional training grants. Hanover Research will 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).

Please direct questions to Jennifer Schaefer, Research Concierge Administrator for the CoM at or ext. 289352.

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

About the Company

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 over $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. Click here to review representative bios for the Hanover team.