Gaia is an ambitious satellite mission to chart a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way. By measuring the proper motions and parallaxes for a billion stars, Gaia is set to transform the way we study the composition, formation and evolution of our galaxy. Concurrently the LAMOST survey facility in China will make a complementary spectral survey of millions of objects in much of the northern sky. This volume, comprising the reviews and contributed talks presented at IAU Symposium 298, is an up-to-date review of what we know about the Milky Way as a galaxy prior to the launch of Gaia. It covers many topics including the status of dynamical simulations, photometric and spectroscopic surveys, and interstellar matter in the Milky Way, as well as detailed studies of stellar atmospheres. The expert reviews will interest all those working on Milky Way astronomy as well as galaxy formation and evolution.