This study tested the feasibility of recruiting and retaining a randomly selected sample of psychiatrists compared to a volunteer sample to participate in the American Psychiatric Association's Practice Research Network (PRN). One hundred-forty psychiatrists were randomly selected and contacted by phone by peer psychiatrists for recruitment into the PRN. As a comparison group, a sample of 146 self-selected volunteer psychiatrists were also included in the study. Recruited and volunteer psychiatrists were asked to participate in three studies to assess study compliance and retention. The representativeness of each sample was evaluated by comparing the psychiatrists' sociodemographic and practice characteristics to existing national data on psychiatrists. Study response rates and long-term retention rates were compared for the two groups. Sixty-one percent of the recruited sample who were eligible to participate in the network were willing to participate. Both the recruited and volunteer samples were broadly representative of the American Psychiatric Association's membership (with some differences in race, ethnicity and board certification). Of the recruited sample, 74.5% (38/51) successfully completed the network's first three pilot studies compared to 72.5% (98/135) of the volunteer sample. No psychiatrists in the recruited sample withdrew from the network compared to 2.1% (3/138) of the volunteer sample. These findings indicate a randomly selected sample of psychiatrists can be recruited and retained to participate in practice-based research. These methods can be used to enhance the generalizability of observational health services research studies, which require the participation of practicing clinicians. More effective methods should be tested to enhance participation rates.