Together with influenza, the non-influenza RNA respiratory viruses (NIRVs), which include respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza viruses, coronavirus, rhinovirus, and human metapneumovirus, represent a considerable global health burden, as recognised by WHO's Battle against Respiratory Viruses initiative. By contrast with influenza viruses, little is known about the contemporaneous global diversity of these viruses, and the relevance of such for development of pharmaceutical interventions. Although far less advanced than for influenza, antiviral drugs and vaccines are in different stages of development for several of these viruses, but no interventions have been licensed. This scarcity of global genetic data represents a substantial knowledge gap and impediment to the eventual licensing of new antiviral drugs and vaccines for NIRVs. Enhanced genetic surveillance will assist and boost research and development into new antiviral drugs and vaccines for these viruses. Additionally, understanding the global diversity of respiratory viruses is also part of emerging disease preparedness, because non-human coronaviruses and paramyxoviruses have been listed as priority concerns in a recent WHO research and development blueprint initiative for emerging infectious diseases. In this Personal View, we explain further the rationale for expanding the genetic database of NIRVs and emphasise the need for greater investment in this area of research.