I’ve heard a few stories in the wake of all the budget shortfalls questioning the economic productivity of the sabbatical.
While I agree with that question at colleges focused on teaching and the liberal arts, for those research universities and high caliber programs who attract the brightest scientists and technologists in their field, Sabbatical is an important generator of economic growth by spurring innovation.
There’s plenty of evidence that a really good way to create transformative technology which creates rapid economic growth is to give really smart people lots of free time. You can look to the ministry of the English church in the 18th century, R&D teams sponsored by companies like Bell Labs, Xerox PARC, etc.
I’ll liken it to what Barak Obama said in the State of the Union: What you don’t want to do in an airplane to gain altitude is to remove your engines to eliminate extra weight.
This is cross-posted on my company blog about Facebook and Higher Ed.