2023 USENIX Annual Meeting Report

USENIX held its annual membership meeting on Monday, December 11, 2023, via Zoom. This report summarizes the topics covered by the Board of Directors and staff during the meeting.

Membership and Financial Sustainability

Over the past year, from November 2022 to November 2023, we've seen a notable decrease in our membership numbers across Corporate (-67%), Individual (-19%), and Advocate (-19%) categories. We’ve also seen a minor drop in Educational (-5%) and Champion (-4%) categories, alongside just a slight increase in Student memberships (+7%). This overall and continued decline highlights a concerning trend that we must address with urgent, concerted effort and strategic planning.

In response to this challenge, we've implemented several promotional activities to reinforce the value of our membership and encourage financial contributions:

  • We continue to request donations as a permanent fixture during the conference registration process, emphasizing our non-profit mission and dedication to open access.

  • We consistently highlight our commitment to open access and the USENIX mission across social media platforms and in our promotional email signatures.

  • We actively promote valuable content, such as ;login: articles and materials from past conferences, to engage our audience and showcase the knowledge within our community.


Here are the steps we’re taking to bolster our financial resilience via membership:

  • We reached out to lapsed members to reconnect and invite them back into the fold of our community.

  • We released an annual donation and membership appeal before Thanksgiving, marking our fourth year of concerted year-end appeals.

  • To grow our outreach, we're developing a sign-up form for all USENIX systems research conferences to keep interested individuals informed about the conferences most relevant to them; this already exists for SREcon.

  • We're emphasizing the importance of updating contact information and communication preferences year-round, ensuring that our messages and updates reach our constituents without fail.


Our members can play a pivotal role in this effort:

  • Consider the opportunity for Educational and Corporate Memberships. This is a way to contribute to USENIX beyond event sponsorships, allowing for recognition on our platform as a steadfast supporter of our non-profit mission. We encourage you to discuss with your employers the potential for supporting USENIX in this manner.

  • Donate to USENIX directly to support our commitment to fostering an open and vibrant exchange of knowledge within the tech community. Each contribution aids us in providing grants, enhancing our conferences, and sharing cutting-edge research freely. Donate today and become a pivotal part of our mission to advance innovation and excellence in technology.

  • Keep your contact information and communication preferences current on via your user profile on the USENIX website to maintain an open channel for all our communications.


The reduction in membership numbers, along with the reduced support from corporate sponsorship and conference attendance, mean that USENIX's financial trajectory has sharply fallen since the beginning of the pandemic, setting us on a dwindling path that will end in the next few years unless we take collective action. These are not isolated events but reflections of a broader economic contraction that affects us all.

This reality calls for an even greater sense of urgency and drive to safeguard the legacy and future of USENIX. It's imperative that we mobilize our community to advocate for the organization's value within our broader networks. The conversations that have sparked groundbreaking ideas, the research that has propelled industries—these are the treasures that lie at the core of USENIX, treasures that we must fight to preserve.

In addition to the recommendations for expanding our membership, you can help by urging your employers and industry leaders to recognize the importance of financially sustaining a thriving tech ecosystem during these trying times. By attracting corporate sponsors and driving donations amidst the economic downturn, we can navigate the current financial straits and once again rebuild a strong reserve fund foundation that will help us weather similar storms. Our commitment and actions today will ensure that USENIX remains a bastion of innovation and collaboration, steering the community through turbulent economic waters toward a more secure and prosperous horizon.

Conference Experiments and Lessons Learned

As discussed at our 2022 meeting, when we announced that USENIX would no longer be offering hybrid events, 2023's conferences took place entirely in person without a virtual attendance option. Our reflections on our 2023 experiences tie directly to this shift. 

The world's response to the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to evolve. We have had few comments about the lack of a virtual attendance option as most of our in-person attendees became less interested in COVID-19 protocols. At the beginning of the year we continued to offer masks and test kits at our badge pickup desk to anyone who requested them. Over the course of the year, we experienced a dramatic drop in the number of requests for either, to the extent that we stopped offering test kits and brought only a handful of masks to share at each conference. Our COVID-19 policy continued to encourage the wearing of masks and respect for everyone's masking and social distancing preferences. As we move into 2024, our policy regarding COVID-19 is evolving into a general request for safe conference attendance and respect for others, as not only COVID-19 but also other viruses circulate in public spaces with large gatherings. We hope that the lessons learned from the COVID-19 experience will help our attendees remain mindful about their interactions with one another.

To help maximize safety otherwise, USENIX now regularly monitors the air quality of all of our conference meeting spaces and requests adjustments from our venues to increase airflow whenever CO2 levels are rising.

The other major experiment and lesson learned is regarding the overall cost to run conferences. As discussed a year ago, the audiovisual costs to support hybrid conferences was too high for us to sustain. Our removal of those features reduced our budget quite a bit, but the costs of any AV and connectivity services remain higher than before the pandemic. Catering costs also increased alongside inflation and show no signs of dropping despite improving economic conditions. Our largest multitrack conference, USENIX Security, has particularly strained our AV budget as it grew in number of papers and thus in number of program tracks again in 2023. We expect a further increase in papers and thus tracks in 2024; our response to that situation in particular is outlined below.

As we move into 2024, we are closely monitoring all of our costs and thinking about sustainability, while remaining mindful of the challenges many of our attendees are experiencing with their shrinking travel budgets and minimal employer support, if not an entire lack thereof.

Sponsorship, Grants, and Fundraising

As we look toward 2024, we are facing considerable challenges in the area of conference sponsorship, which historically has been the backbone of our funding. The current climate in the tech industry, marked by widespread layoffs and restructuring, is already affecting our bottom line. Notably, at our SREcon event in the third quarter, we saw a concerning decline in both the number of sponsors and the levels of sponsorship—this is one of our primary revenue-generating events, and the impact is significant.

The turnover within tech companies has also led to the loss of key contacts in our supporting organizations, which further complicates our efforts. While we are hopeful for the emergence of new partnerships and a resurgence in funding, the projection of up to a 20% drop in sponsor levels for the coming year cannot be taken lightly. This potential reduction, coupled with the decrease in events USENIX offers, points to a substantial shortfall that we must prepare for.

Turning to grants, our student grant support at systems research conferences remains stable, primarily due to the continued student travel grants from the National Science Foundation for which we apply annually. However, it's important to acknowledge that the support received still falls short of the amount needed. Moreover, our diversity and inclusion grant program, which depends solely on sponsor support, has been negatively affected by the sponsorship downturn this past year. If you’d like to learn more about sponsorship opportunities at all USENIX conferences or to support USENIX as an organization, please contact sponsorship@usenix.org

In terms of fundraising, while individual donations and corporate support for USENIX separate from conference sponsorship have held steady, they represent only a fraction of our overall budget. We are always seeking new supporters to help ensure USENIX's overall financial sustainability. As we move forward, our objectives for the next year are to maintain current sponsorship levels, increase grants for DEI initiatives, and attract more substantial donations and major donors.

Program Changes for 2024 and 2025

We have a few changes planned for 2024 and 2025. 


We will not be holding Enigma in 2024, as announced in March. Enigma has been a truly unique offering by USENIX that blends academia and industry, providing high-quality and engaging talks on security and privacy. Unfortunately, producing such a high-quality event has high costs, and the Board of Directors needed to make the tough decision to suspend Enigma. We are truly grateful to all of our Enigma volunteers, speakers, and attendees for their support. While Enigma will be missed, USENIX is exploring ways to incorporate similarly high quality invited speakers from diverse backgrounds in our other security conferences. 


We have also suspended SREcon APAC for the time being. SREcon Americas and SREcon EMEA will continue running. Unlike EMEA and Americas, almost all SREcon APAC participants must travel a long distance to attend SREcon APAC. Companies’ current reluctance to fund employee travel for conferences has hit APAC much harder than the other SREcon conferences, meaning that the event is not viable for the moment. We remain profoundly grateful to all our APAC volunteers and attendees for their support.    


We are happy to announce the return of WOOT to USENIX. WOOT, or the Workshop on Offensive Technologies, was historically co-located with USENIX Security. We are happy that WOOT will not only be returning to USENIX in 2024, but that it will also be reclassified as a conference, which will encourage additional attention from academic researchers. WOOT is now the USENIX WOOT Conference on Offensive Technologies. Similar to Enigma, WOOT seeks to bring academic and industry researchers together. However, in contrast to Enigma’s focus on talks, WOOT focuses on peer-reviewed papers. Prior to the exclusion of all USENIX Security workshops in 2021, WOOT regularly had over 200 attendees. In 2022 and 2023, WOOT was held alongside the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy. WOOT '24 will be held on August 12–13, 2024, co-located with USENIX Security in August in Philadelphia, PA, USA.

USENIX Security

USENIX Security has seen explosive growth in the last several years. USENIX Security '23 accepted an unprecedented 422 papers. This growth is exciting, and both the security community and USENIX want to see the number of accepted papers continue to grow as the community expands. However, scaling to meet this growth needs careful consideration. In the past several years, the USENIX Security program co-chairs have considerably increased the size of the program committee, reaching 303 members for USENIX Security '24. USENIX Security '23 also introduced a team of vice chairs to aid the program co-chairs in ensuring the review process remains as smooth and high quality as possible.

Unfortunately, the event side of the conference has not seen the same innovation. The 422 above-mentioned papers at USENIX Security '23 spanned six tracks with talks limited to 15 minutes. Thus far, our solution to the growth has been to add more paper tracks, shorten presentations, and get rid of both keynotes and invited talks. This approach will not work for much longer. The second of three submission cycles for USENIX Security '24 had 990 submissions, which is an over 50% increase from the second cycle in 2023. There are also financial and logistical limits to increasing the number of tracks. Expanding the event into a larger meeting space comes at a steep additional cost with more lead time needed for planning, and each track added requires a significant additional audiovisual investment.

It is clear that USENIX needs to re-think the conference structure for USENIX Security. A rapid fire of five- to ten-minute talks may not be an enjoyable experience for most. Such a model may not attract the diverse audience of students, junior faculty, senior faculty, and industry that traditionally attend the conference, and in turn the valuable sponsorship needed to sustain the event. 

The USENIX Security Steering Committee has been working closely with the 2025 program co-chairs, Lujo Bauer and Giancarlo Pellegrino, to define a new sustainable model for the conference. We'll be sharing more details on that new model soon, but we do already know of one key change we will be making. Starting with USENIX Security '25, we will be decoupling paper publication from paper presentation, so not all papers will have full-length talk presentations at the conference. 

This change introduces both challenges and opportunities. One significant challenge is ensuring that all accepted papers are considered to have equal merit, regardless of whether or not they have a full-length talk presentation at the conference. At the same time, reducing the number of full talk presentations provides an opportunity to bring back a track of longer invited talks, perhaps drawing from our experiences running Enigma.

As always, we are keeping an eye out for emerging topics of interest and communities that need support for growing events. Please feel free to reach out to the Board of Directors to suggest ideas.

2024 Board of Directors Election

One of the most important benefits of USENIX membership is the ability to participate in USENIX's leadership by voting in the election of our Board of Directors. 2024 is an election year. Our Board sets the strategy of the Association and we hope our members will make their voices heard by voting for the candidates that best represent them. 

The 2024 Nominating Committee, composed of three past Board members, Carolyn Rowland, John Arrasjid, and Michael Bailey, assembled a strong and diverse slate of candidates for the members' consideration. As in 2022, we will partner with Helios to run our election electronically. We again offer our thanks to Ben Adida, Helios project founder, for his help in this effort.


;login: continues in its open access digital format, as it has since the start of 2021. 

There are, on average, 12,000 accesses per week to ;login: content. This includes significant spikes when an article is shared on a tech news aggregator. Most visitors access the digital format articles rather than the older print-format PDFs. Several older articles are surprisingly evergreen. This effect is likely due to being able to link to individual digital ;login: articles, rather than an entire issue of ;login:. 

Security and SRE-related articles continue to be the most popular, but there's also interest in articles that explain how new hardware features are being used. Book reviews are also generally popular. 

As of the beginning of December, there have been 30 ;login: articles published in 2023, almost three per month. Most have been shepherded by Rik Farrow, and a few by Laura Nolan. We continue to invite members from all of our professional and academic communities to contribute to ;login:, either by writing articles or by sourcing and shepherding articles from your community. If interested, please contact login@usenix.org.


Help us start the new year on strong financial footing: become a member or make a donation to USENIX, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Your support is critical to our ability to fulfill our mission, to bring communities together to discuss the latest research and practices in advanced computing systems, and to champion open access to said research and content presented at our conferences.