We developed a robust Bayesian inversion scheme to plan and analyze laboratory creep compaction experiments. We chose a simple creep law that features the main parameters of interest when trying to identify rate-controlling mechanisms from experimental data. By integrating the chosen creep law or an approximation thereof, one can use all the data, either simultaneously or in overlapping subsets, thus making more complete use of the experiment data and propagating statistical variations in the data through to the final rate constants. Despite the nonlinearity of the problem, with this technique one can retrieve accurate estimates of both the stress exponent and the activation energy, even when the porosity time series data are noisy. Whereas adding observation points and/or experiments reduces the uncertainty on all parameters, enlarging the range of temperature or effective stress significantly reduces the covariance between stress exponent and activation energy. We apply this methodology to hydrothermal creep compaction data on quartz to obtain a quantitative, semiempirical law for fault zone compaction in the interseismic period. Incorporating this law into a simple direct rupture model, we find marginal distributions of the time to failure that are robust with respect to errors in the initial fault zone porosity. Copyright 2007 by the American Geophysical Union.