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Collaborative networks are considered a critical factor in developing the human species and any living being. Life would not be possible without the dynamic interaction between plants, animals, micro-organisms, non-living beings, and their environment. Nor would human life be possible without considering its physical, social, cultural, and technological environments as a unitary network living within a historical context. In science and academia, the importance of networks has grown exponentially. Based on the experience of a network of excellence with institutional recognition for more than ten years, the purpose of this article is to highlight the value and contributions of this way of working for the advancement of scientific knowledge and public policy. It argues the importance and the necessity of networks and the advantages of network thinking. To illustrate the importance of networks, we analyse the trajectory of the REUNI+D network of excellence, the contributions and tensions of this collaborative structure, the lengthy processes required for its constitution, the social capital that it provides to its members and some conclusions that show the challenges of research networks in universities.
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